Chelsea’s rounded corners
There's something remarkable in every direction
When I emerged from the Lincoln Tunnel two years ago, something became immediately apparent about New York City. I still sense it every time I step onto the busy street or buy groceries three times more expensive than your local market: living in New York City means ignoring your survival instincts. Its streets are clogged and filthy, and its subway runs on 100-year-old parts. You don’t come here to relax. It won’t inspire you like standing beside a stream or observing small-town life. But if you’re lucky, it offers an affirming feeling of having lived.
I live in Chelsea across from the neighborhood’s namesake hotel—a landmark in disrepair, stalled in endless renovations—and a few blocks from Chelsea’s famous art studios. One day, I passed a group of art students sporting the coolest vibes—yellow sunglasses, green crop tops, blue hair—like they were all pieced together by one of those fun random character generators you see in video games.
Madison Square Park, shaded by the famous Flatiron Building, is two blocks east. There, you’ll find Eleven Madison Park—one of America’s most luxurious restaurants—right across the street from America’s first Shake Shack stall.
Times Square is a ten-minute walk north. At night, I can see its cloud of light from twenty blocks away.
Just south, under the arch at Washington Square Park, you’ll find every sampling of humankind enjoying what little nature the city offers, proving that we’re all meant to live and harmonize here together.
Sometimes, I head west toward Chelsea Piers and run along the Hudson River Greenway. A bit of history about this area: In 1914, a young urban planner named Robert Moses—later responsible for New York’s urban sprawl—walked along Manhattan’s Hudson River coastline with a friend. At the time, the coast was undeveloped land covered by smog and train tracks. But Moses had ambitious plans for the region. His friend later recounted:
“[Moses] had it all figured out… He could build a great highway that went uptown along the water… with cars traveling slowly along it, their occupants enjoying the view, and along the highway stretching green parks filled with strollers, tennis players, and families on bicycles. There would be sailboats on the river and motor yachts tied up in gracefully curving basins. He had it all figured out.”
Now, nearly 110 years later, I think of that story when I run through those green parks filled with strollers and bicycles, all moving in parallel with the great highway. I pass piers where the wealthy store their boats and weave through lines of people waiting to eat at restaurants that lure with signs like “Tacos on a Boat.”
I sure like this place. I like taking the subway and trying to understand its connections. I like how different its streets can feel just by walking on the other side of them. I like that I know how it smells (bad) and what it sounds like (mainly sirens). And I like knowing it’ll be burning bright long after it burns me out.
Detailed in the excellent book, The Power Broker.