Two separate Manhattan street grid systems come together at a 4-street intersection in the West Village, where Greenwich Street, Gansevoort Street, Little West 12th Street and 9th Avenue all meet. Here, Greenwich Street finishes a northbound run from Battery Place and Ninth Avenue begins a climb up the West Side all the way to Cathedral Parkway (West 110th Street) with a name change along the way, as it becomes Columbus Avenue at West 59th. (9th Avenue isn’t quite finished, though, as it has another short run in the extreme northern reaches of the borough: it’s Broadway’s last intersection before it crosses the Harlem River.)
Little West 12th is the first street on the West Side that runs west across the northern orientation of Manhattan Island (though the directions aren’t true north or west) as the Greenwich Street grid comes to an end here. Older maps show it as “North 12th” but some times after that, the “Little” moniker was settled upon. The street can’t be called West 12th proper, since Troy Street, a street running southwest from Greenwich Avenue, had already been renamed West 12th in the 1860s.
The confluence of the four streets made for a glorious wide open space paved with Belgian blocks — it was the widest such remaining space in Manhattan, certainly, as I photographed it here in 1999.
That, however, was way before this area, named the Meatpacking District for its prevailing meat wholesaling businesses, was recast as an upscale recreational area in the early 2000s, with fashion designers such as Diane von Furstenberg and Stella McCartney setting up shop in the area as well as velvet rope joints and pricey restaurants such as Pastis, Spice Market and others making the area an urban destination. The Apple Store opened on 9th and West 14th in late 2007. above photo via Streetsblog
With that extra foot traffic, there was, apparently, a greater risk of conflict between truck and auto traffic and pedestrians, and so, in some quarters, a “traffic taming” measure was necessitated. Committees were formed, task forces assembled, and at length, the Project for Public Spaces determined action was necessary:
The district’s problems today are principally a result of its success, and the tremendous growth and development it has seen since the mid 1990’s. Traffic, congestion, declining pedestrian safety, noise, and worsening neighborly relations are all burgeoning problems recognized by residents and local leaders as threats to the area…The district’s problems today are principally a result of its success, and the tremendous growth and development it has seen since the mid 1990s. Traffic, congestion, declining pedestrian safety, noise, and worsening neighborly relations are all burgeoning problems recognized by residents and local leaders as threats to the area…
As a result of this study and visioning process, community leaders created the Greater Gansevoort Urban Improvement Project (GGUIP). GGUIP has hired the Regional Plan Association and Sam Schwartz Company to model traffic impacts and the feasibility of the community’s vision. GGUIP expanded the study zone, to ensure that they can make the most positive impact on traffic in as large an area as possible….Project for Public Spaces
The result of all this “study and visioning” has been the imposition of some rather ugly and intrusive concrete bollards and planters placed within the grand space, with white painted lines outlining the courses of Gansevoort and Little West 12th Streets and 9th Avenue. The traffic has certainly been “tamed’, but when I visited in midsummer, people hadn’t taken to the place. Perhaps if some tables and chairs were set up, and the Mister Softee truck would come around, people would be more enticed. photo left: High Line Blog
Elsewhere in what the NYC blogging world calls MePa, the Type 24M short-shafted Corvington light post that illuminated the SE corner of Gansevoort Plaza has been removed in favor of a retro-Bishops Crook, which has retained its primary coat of rust colored paint. In fairness the Type G had been listing to the side for some time.
A couple of fascinating older buildings overlook the plaza, including this one with the mysterious initials MR emblazoned at the top…
…as well as this one, with the odd jog in it where Little West 12th meets Gansevoort. Check some of the detail in the faux columns, and the now-faded writing above the second floor.
Change has come to the Meatpacking District, as yet another hardworking, unpolished environ has been spiffed and shined.
Photographed 1999 and July 2008; page completed July 28, 2008