This lot used to be an auto repair shop. Visible from almost any direction was a sign reading NO AIR, just in case any deflated motorists or cyclists on Smith Street had ideas about filling up there. The garage burned down years ago, so I’m not sure whatever is going up constitutes gentrification, but given the state of things in that part of the neighborhood, I imagine it will be expensive and therefore exclusive, which is what we usually mean when we say “gentrified.”
This was probably 2018. I spent a fair amount of time shooting on the subway that year. I’d pick a destination, usually a specific neighborhood, and grab whatever I saw along the way. It was a difficult year for several reasons and I found real joy in situations like this: musical, quotidian, everyone sort of doing their own thing without stepping on anyone’s toes. Ideal city life. Always a comfort and inspiration.
Over the last few decades, high-income housing has replaced much of what was a kind of West Side light-industrial-transit-and-transportation corridor, roughly extending from the Holland Tunnel to the Lincoln Tunnel: countless parking and service garages, body shops, Hansom cab stables, unofficial taxi hangouts, bus lots, and even gas stations were to be found from the West Village up to the Javits Center. Most of them are gone now, yielded to more profitable development.
Maybe all the taxis hang out in Long Island City now? And the Hansoms, under probably-worthy scrutiny from animal rights activists, are going the way of their ancestral horses and carriages. I don’t have any particular nostalgia for these things, but I do believe that for a time, mostly in the last century, they contributed to the character of the City, if not its glamour or broader appeal. In any case, the shop pictured here is still around, across the street from a Hansom stable, and I won’t be surprised if it and the stable are gone the next time I’m over there.