info 03.3.06

Flower District R.I.P.

Occasionally at MUG we like to pause and note transitions around the city. Today, a brief bouquet-toss to the flower district's waning days.

Eviction notices have just gone out to merchants along 28th Street, marking the final chapter in the long demise of the flower district. The city isn't stepping in in the way they did with the Fulton Fish Market. In that case, the city owned the underlying (and valuable) property. In the flower district, it's much more fragmented, characterized over the years by fiercely independent merchants who had difficulty agreeing on a new location.

It wasn't for lack of trying: there have been plans considered over many decades for moving the floralistas to the Bronx, to Harlem, to Long Island City, to the Meatpacking District, to 10th Avenue, 11th Avenue. Many businesses decamped for the 'burbs during the city's dark days in the '70s.

Though the 6th Avenue and 28th Street area has been the city's flower district since the 1890s (when it moved from the ferry landing at East 34th), it has long been foreseeable that the flower district would have to reconvene elsewhere or dissolve entirely. And as the apartment high-rises have crept up along Sixth in recent years, the writing was legibly on the wall.

Some merchants have the deed to those walls and they may continue to operate out of buildings they own for a period of time. But with new high-rises such as the Remy underway, and a new luxury hotel to come, it's seems unlikely at this late date that a flower district will remain in that location — or any location in Manhattan.

With the flea market relocated to Hell's Kitchen and the flower district's disintegration, it appears inevitable that this stretch of 6th Avenue will become a bedroom community mirror to upper Sixth Avenue's business towers, a sterile swath where there was once something vibrant and unpredictable, something essentially New York.

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