NFT New York Chelsea


Located due south of Midtown's gazillion office buildings and due north of the West Village and the Financial District, Chelsea is a magnet for the young, the beautiful, and the wealthy. A polished mix of quaint, restored townhouses and sparkling new condos in the sky combine to create a unique and appealing neighborhood that deftly bridges the transition from downtown to Midtown. With the opening of the long-awaited High Line in 2009, luxury marched west towards the river, with multiple shiny new buildings clustered around the new ribbon of green that cuts through the heart of the neighborhood.

While the neighborhood is diverse and welcoming to all, it would be dishonest to pretend that it isn't best known as the epicenter of all things gay. A substantial, muscle-bound gay population spawned the term "Chelsea boy," used either derisively or admiringly depending on one's taste. Several of the city's best gay bars, book stores, and social service organizations are located within the borders of this neighborhood. And while the gyms aren't exclusively gay, they know who their best and most loyal customers are.See more.

But even if you're not a gay male, the charms of Chelsea are many and unmistakable: a thriving, inclusive nightlife with something for everyone, great dining for almost any budget, and great shopping for...middle budgets and upwards (though the odd deal can certainly be found tucked into a side street or a more modest storefront on one of the avenues). On top of that, there are ample opportunities for recreation here--aside from the aforementioned High Line, there's the Hudson River Park (which, unsurprisingly, is alongside the body of water bearing the same name), massive sports complex Chelsea Piers, brilliant Chelsea Market, with its wonderfully diverse food vendors, and the safety-first, divided bike lanes on 8th and 9th Avenues.

The architecture of the neighborhood is some of New York's most noteworthy. Frank Gehry's translucent, iceberg/schooner hybrid InterActiveCorp Building is regrettably too short to be seen from vantage points that aren't near its location at the intersection of 18th Street and the West Side Highway. But it's a leading candidate for coolest building in Chelsea and one of the loveliest, most unique buildings erected in Manhattan in recent years. A few blocks away lies the gorgeous, Neo-Gothic campus of the General Theological Seminary, the oldest Episcopal theological school. Just north of there, the historic London Terrace luxury apartment complex fills an entire city block. Up a few blocks more, the Starrett-Lehigh Building is an art deco freight warehouse and factory that now houses several high-profile media and fashion companies.

Farther uptown, on 8th Avenue between 31st and 33rd Streets, the James A. Farley Post Office stands in proud, marble magnificence across the street from the grotesquely ugly Madison Square Garden (the unworthy replacement for the demolished Penn Station). A couple blocks west of there is the Javits Center, the biggest exhibition hall in the city and another architectural lowlight. As a New Yorker, the best reason you'll ever have for going there is a jobs fair or an industry expo--the latter being preferable because there's likely to be free food or booze.

Instead of heading up into the 30s, take a walk through west Chelsea in the 20s and you'll find yourself in one of the great visual art districts of the world. Over 300 galleries show the newest work of the best artists working today. Despite the occasional dud, you have a better-than-even chance of encountering exhilarating, high-quality work. Now and then, you might even find something you can afford to buy!

Add in some of the best people-watching in the city, and you'll know why so many other New Yorkers choose to pay a small fortune every month to live in a shoebox here.

The Half King is perfectly positioned for a drink apres-gallery. The Kitchen's list of performances over the years is legendary, and rock shows still happen at the Hammerstein and Highline Ballrooms. Various gay crowds have their home bars here: Gym (hunks!) and The Eagle (leather-daddies and cubs) are two of the best.

Try Spice for some tasty Thai. Grand Sichuan is one of our favorite spots for Chinese in all of New York. Across the street, check out Co.'s stellar pizzas. Got a bonus? Indulge at Buddakan, Del Posto, or Morimoto. For diner food, there's always the Skylight.

B&H Photo remains a go-to electronics store (closed Saturdays) and Printed Matter's selection of artists' books is probably the best in the world. For food, simply hit brilliant Chelsea Market to get Italian imports (Buon Italia), wine (Chelsea Wine Vault), dairy (Ronnybrook Farm), fish (The Lobster Place), cheese (Lucy's Whey) and bread (Amy's Bread).


This Neighborhood Featured in...
On the Hunt for NY's Avant-Garde

By Sarah Enelow
New York is a world-class performing arts mecca, especially when it comes to experimental work, but where exactly does one find it? NFT Editor Sarah Enelow takes us on a tour of avant-garde performance venues in the city, cutting through the Broadway fluff to find the best, most affordable offbeat events.
Breaking into Non-Profit Arts

By Liz Pink
Young, talented, poor and striving. Artists are a mysterious lot. Will they make it, or will we wipe our hands of them, devilishly and unforgivingly. J/K. Liz Pink offers truckloads of making-it-in-the-big-city advice that only a very rich or successful artist could pass up. Join her.


On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Scott Sendrow
Photo:  Scott Sendrow

The McKittrick Hotel
British theatre company Punchdrunk is winding down an extended run of its Sleep No More site-specific work at a Chelsea building across the street from the Scores back entrance. The massive "set," if you can call it that (that dinky term doesn't begin to capture what they've built) is the biggest thing I've ever seen in theater. Five stories of intricate detail, each room is filled with trinkets and props and curated like an art installation. Unlike an art installation, visitors are encouraged to get close and literally dig around for clues among the papers and objects. The effect is overwhelming, and it's worth arriving as close as possible to the opening doors to take it all in and not get distracted once the performers get going. The performance itself emphasizes physical movement over straight narrative (subtle Macbeth references are difficult to discern); it's a conservative choice for this outsized canvas. And although you'll feel like an idiot chasing around actors while wearing a blank masquerade mask, the best advice is to just follow them and try to intuit where in the building you should be as the show builds to its climax about three hours later.

Posted By:  Craig Nelson

Pier Sixty The Lighthouse
It's that time of year again, when the weather starts warming up, animals (and New Yorkers) come out of hibernation, and Whisky Live comes to town for one of the greatest shows on earth on April 6th. For all you booze hounds, just imagine a gigantic pier filled with every type of whisky you can imagine. Ok, catch your breath...and now imagine all of the top master distillers sharing their beautiful creations for you to enjoy. From Glenlivet to Elijah Craig to Laphroaig, the single malts, bourbons, and blends will all be in the house and pouring tastes. For over three hours! To sweeten the deal, get 10% off with the code "notfortourists" when you buy your tickets. So clear your calendar for the night of April 6th. Come to think of it, clear your calendar for all of April 7th too. It's going to be a long, fun evening.

Posted By:  Sarah Enelow
Photo:  Sarah Enelow

Joyce Theater
This past week Merce Cunningham Dance Company performed a sold-out run at The Joyce Theater, New York's longtime mecca for dance. These performances were particularly special as 2011 is MCDC's final year, and I do mean final (after 58 years the company disbands at the end of December). On Friday night, the crowd burst into applause and the lobby was buzzing with discussion about the dancers, the live experimental music, and all the playful artistic moments interspersed throughout the evening. So you tried to get tickets after they sold out? Or you didn't even know about these performances in the first place? Keep your eyes peeled for MCDC performances this year in New York. There won't be many, but next up (after they tour to France, Germany, Israel, and Russia) they're coming home for a "Merce Fair" on July 16 at Lincoln Center Festival.

Posted By:  Rob Tallia
Photo:  Rob Tallia

Pace Wildenstein
Walking around Chelsea on a weekday afternoon looking at galleries is one of my favorite NYC pastimes. Each time I go, I spend 80% of the time shaking my head at the absolute and utter crap on display at many of NY's fine galleries. I do see a few good things each time, which counterbalance the crap. And then...there's always something that just blows you away. On this past Friday's jaunt, it was Maya Lin's "2 x 4 Landscape" at Pace Wildenstein. Please go, so you can understand what it means to be a great artist. To see work by someone who so understands artistic execution and dedication to an ideal. You should poke your head in, as I did, to at least a few dozen other galleries, so you can compare the worldview, intelligence, and creativity of Maya Lin to all the other work, a little bit which is good but not particularly close, and a lot of which is probably meant well but isn't anything even vaguely like what Ms. Lin accomplishes here. But that's what great artists are here for--to inspire all of us, even other artists.

Posted By:  Craig Nelson
Photo:  Craig Nelson

The Maritime Hotel
Since NFT sells millions of books every year (not) and we party like rock stars (yeah, right), we're used to staying in the finest hotels in the city when we can't make it back to our penthouse apartments in Williambsurg (dream on) after a crazy night of clubbing in the Meatpacking District (we wouldn't even get past the doorman). Once in awhile one of these boutique hotels makes quite an impression. Enter The Maritime. Just staring at this gorgeous building brings NFT lots of joy. But the real fun starts when you enter the modernist lobby to get your room key. The staff is super cool and totally unpretentious--a rarity in the world of fancy hotels. The rooms are out of this world with circular windows perfectly framing a stunning view towards the Hudson, bath products from Bigelow, Manhattan-themed furniture, and an incredibly comfortable bed. In the morning throw in a NY Sunday Times at your door and an excellent pastry tray and pot of coffee from La Bottega, and NFT is one happy customer. Now the big question: wonder how many iPhone apps do we need to sell to afford to stay here every night?

Posted By:  J. Slab
Photo:  J. Slab

Pier Sixty The Lighthouse

Whisky Live 2009
March 30th, 6:30-10 pm (5:30 pm entrance for VIPs)

Have you ever read one of those "substance abuse" pamphlets colleges distribute to first-year students? The bar for "alcoholism" is set pretty low. It was here that I learned I may...wait for it, wait for it...have a problem. Because apparently, drinking "alone," or to "relieve social anxiety" or "get drunk," is a no-no. Alas, the Scottish have no such hang-ups. Need proof? Head over to Whiskey Live 2009, where the clans Ardbeg and Laphroaig and Maccallan (to name just a few) will be arriving en masse with some spectacular single malts for the people. That's right kiddies, leave your American inhibitions at the door and dip inside for a smoky Islay dram or a dab of smooth Speyside goodness. "Masterclasses" abound, including a special sampling of "Bushmills 1608," bottled to celebrate the distillery's 400th (gasp!) anniversary. This, plus 100-ish whiskeys and hors d'oeuvres (yay, small food!) equals one classy evening. So don't fret about the morrow--just don thy kilt and have at thee, Braveheart.

Posted By:  Rob Tallia
Photo:  Rob Tallia

When the folks behind Sullivan Street Bakeryannounced they'd be opening a pizzeria, excitement in the NFT office was pretty damned high; as Sullivan Street makes some of the best bread in explored space, we expected the pizza to be brilliant. And while it might not immediately push into the (admittedly ever-changing) top 10 of NYC pizzerias, it's off to a great start. The Margherita pizza is excellent, though by no means unique in any way; however, both the Flambe pizza (with bechamel, parmesan, buffalo mozzarella, onions, and lardons) and the Popeye pizza (with pecorino, gruyere, buffalo mozzarella, spinach, black pepper, and garlic) are definite eye-poppers/gustatory sensations. Everything else--appetizers, drinks (wine and beer only), and scene are fine; but it's going to be their further pizza creations that will no doubt have us continuing to keep "company" with Co.

Posted By:  Krikor Daglian
Photo:  Krikor Daglian

Bowery Eats
Bowery Kitchen Supply in the Chelsea Market devotes most of its space to an extensive supply of kitchen goods, but venture there during lunchtime any day of the week and you’re bound to see most of the attention devoted to its takeout sandwich counter. For something that seems to have been more of an afterthought than a primary mission, the fact is that “Bowery Eats” makes a really good sandwich. Current addictions include their #4, with fresh mozzarella, grilled vegetables, sun-dried tomatoes and vinaigrette on a baguette or in a wrap, and their French Tuna—tuna (not tuna salad) with capers and olives. For those who want something a bit more intense, try “The Soprano,” piled high with ham, salami, prosciutto, provolone, roasted peppers and more. Prices are good for the neighborhood and the ingredients are excellent. The biggest downside is that Bowery Eats does takeout only and doesn’t take orders over the phone. It’s worth the usual 5 to 15 minute wait for a sandwich—gives you plenty of time to find that special pepper grinder you’ve been looking for…

Posted By:  Jennifer Keeney Sendrow
Photo:  Courtesy Roomorama

If it’s proscuitto or gorgonzola naturale that you seek, Buon Italia, inside the Chelsea Market, is the next best thing to smuggling that spuzz through customs on your way back from Roma. They don’t have everything you’d need for a dolce vita, but they do pretty well. The dry goods sit up front, including an array of olive oils, vinegars, soft drinks, and cookies. Beyond that, you’ll find a selection of cheeses, both fresh and dried pasta, and plenty of vacuum-packed beans and grains. Freezer cases lining the wall have gelato, ravioli, fruits and vegetables, and seafood. They saved the best for last; the back wall of the shop is the meat counter, filled with all types of cured treats.

Posted By:  Becky Dalzell

Matthew Marks Gallery
Let’s face it: galleries can be a bit scary. Bare walls, dead silence, and the assistant glaring at you from behind thick-rimmed glasses. But go upstairs at the Matthew Marks Gallery this week for some art that is refreshingly pretence-free. Sure, the walls and frames are still white, but this is a show of Fischli and Weiss, work that is actually hilarious and fun. Sausages, shoes, carrots, and balloons star in the tense mini-dramas framed in a series of photographs. Set in precarious and whimsical poses, the objects are on the brink of collapse, so looking at the photos is also to imagine the teetering and crash. No need to nod at the profundity of urinals here! Just look, think for a second, and laugh.

Posted By:  Krikor Daglian
Photo:  Krikor Daglian

The Park
So, your parents are coming into town to have brunch with you, and guess who’s gonna have to pick the place to go? While New Yorkers take pride in their knowledge of the city, when asked to plan out someone’s visit with a trip to a NY restaurant that is “cool,” “nice” or some other woefully non-descriptive adjective, the responsibility of providing an experience that lives up to the visitor’s expectations is often a taxing one. Take the brunch example—your folks want somewhere that’s comfortable, has good food, isn’t too “crazy,” and has parking nearby (they’re driving in from the suburbs after-all!). My choice on a recent Sunday morning was The Park on Tenth Avenue. Better known as a swank nightspot for people with more money to burn than me (or you), it’s only about half full on weekend mornings, and the light brings out the beauty of the space. High ceilings, booth seating, slightly edgy brunch menu, and even a garden—moms like gardens (it’s heated in the winter). And there’s always plenty of parking around Tenth Avenue. Worked like a charm.

Posted By:  J. Slab
Photo:  J. Slab

Midtown is a horrible, horrible place. It smells like fart and tastes like sandpaper. No surprise that it drives so many to the bottle. But where to drink? What if you don’t like “sports bars,” or “own a suit”? What if—and here I stress the if—you want to listen to Latin music in a just-barely coed-friendly environment of plastic palm trees and provocatively-clad barmaids? Then consider yourself officially stoked, and marengue on down to The Distinguished Wakamba Cocktail Lounge. Owner Jose Wakamba has assembled one of the oddest spots in the area: part kitsch, part musical adventure, part tropical theme, part back-alley risqué. What does this add up to? Distinguished times, friend; distinguished times indeed.

Posted By:  Rob Tallia
Photo:  Rob Tallia

Yes, we know you already know that Chelsea Market is cool (minus the laughably bad website). But there are still so few places where you can both shop for food while eating it (and vice versa) that it’s important to shout out those places that do exist. And Chelsea Market is a good ‘un, from top NYC baker Amy’s Bread, to fresh sushi and seafood from The Lobster Place, good-lookin’ meat from Frank’s Butcher Shop, then on to Buonitalia Italian Imports for excellent mozzarella, pastas, prosciutto (go with the 18-month parma), and other Italian imports, and finally to L’Arte Del Gelato, for some gelato bella donna conna buono goodnesso. There are also a few shops to note, including the good-for-an-occasion Chelsea Market Baskets and the Chelsea Wholesale Flower Market. Basically, you can’t go wrong—unless you’re just back from SF’s Ferry Building or Philly’s Reading Terminal Market, both of which are on another level. But you can’t take the A train to either of those, so just quit your whining.

Posted By:  Rob Tallia
Photo:  Tom Powel Imaging

Printed Matter
Of all the bookstores in all the cities where I could most easily blow, say, $500-$1000, I actually believe that Printed Matter is where I can spend it the fastest. Sure, I’m a sucker for coffee-table books on architecture, signed first editions of my favorite authors, and pretty much anything that says “Taschen” or “Phaidon” anywhere on it, but this IS the place. All the books here are made by artists; almost all are wonderfully non-linear in at least one, if not several, ways, and, since many are hand-made, many of them fall in the $20-$50 range (though there are plenty of items in the $6-$10 range, including great flip books and the like). Both my friend and I got out cheap the other day, though; we each only bought one thing, her a lovely book of bound paisley and other-patterned papers, and me a small photography book entitled “Utah.” But who cares? You know the money is most likely only going to one of two places—the artist, or to Printed Matter’s new-ish digs on Tenth Street, their best storefront yet. To sum up: one of my first post-“Lotto” destinations.

Posted By:  Erin Hodson
Photo:  none

The Maritime Hotel
This Friday, October 6th, friends of New York City and the community are holding a cancer benefit for our friend and sister, Marianne Gaetamo. At the young age of 24, Marianne was diagnosed with cancer. Ten years later, she’s still struggling, still battling, hence the importance of this benefit in her behalf. This will be an amazing night at the Penthouse Roof Top of the Maritime Hotel. Enjoy amazing views of NYC, painted by an autumn sunset. Listen and dance to some of NYC's finest DJ's. Learn about local artists and bid on their work in a silent auction (8 pm). Laugh and smile to stand-up comedy and adult balloon art. Drink delicious cocktails in a fantastic VIP location. Most of all, come out and show your support for Marianne and experience a true night to remember! If you can’t make it, you can still make a donation. Make checks payable to: Sabrina Haley 35 Graham Ave, Apt. 4D Brooklyn, NY, 11206

Posted By:  Rob Tallia
Photo:  Rob Tallia

Frying Pan
I wish Ben, our database manager, good luck on this one—it’s a nightclub! A bar and grill! A hangout space! A kayak company! It’s called the Frying Pan, Pier 63, the Tiki Hut, and God Knows what else. Where is it? On Pier 63, at the very west end of West 23rd Street, just north of Chelsea Piers, and immediately to the right of Basketball City and an NYPD something-or-other kind of building. Just ask, though; you’ll find it (cheaters can take a NY Water Taxi straight to it). On an overcast August Saturday afternoon, we were pretty much the only group drinking Red Stripes and eating burgers on the pier (which is actually a railroad barge). We were also the only people poking around the rotting lightship Frying Pan, which transforms itself to a club/event space at night. Highly recommended from the grill: the garlic fries. Also looking cool: the Manhattan Kayak Company (, which offers lessons, tours, etc. Overall, just a great little collection of various things to contemplate while looking at the river and drinking a beer. I’m thinking three words: NFT Release Party.

Posted By:  Dave Crish
Photo:  Dave Crish

A scar, even upon the pissed on pave of Chelsea's north edge. I relate, here, of history's Vigilant. Built some hundred years ago of resilient brick, at present resembling ash. Not the sort of amenitied lodge one peruses on vacation. Piped of, but, three befouled showers, a pair of sinks, and toilettes of excreta. Succinctly, an inn of cells petit rented to gents of varied feather—all poor for whatever reason, breathing the airs of next step below homelessness. $125 per seven days. No credit, no checks, no euros, cartons maybe—of Marlboros. Never gleeful, rarely tended proud asylum sans musique. Fine abode for a bit of drifting or a brief disappearance. In sum, perfect for the bored with responsibilities of maintaining a traceable address. Foam pad, gray, oft cavorted 'pon by bloodsucking mites. Not a lash of social space but narrow hallways. Sphere of little social grace a tincture schizo of few heads cracked—a few murderers, few blooming, and even fewer handsome. Maybe a master once and then. Never a fellow un-weathered. Indeed, the Vigilant Hotel. For the times when desires discordant means and the bench not an option.

Posted By:  Jane Pirone
Photo:  Jane Pirone

Better Burger
Not only are the burgers better, but you can order any type of burger you can imagine—from Ostrich to Soy. Honestly, the place is too good to be true. All meat products are antibiotic and hormone free, most of the stuff is organic, the prices are reasonable, the smoothies are to die for, and, get this—they make fries you can indulge in without guilt (baked, but tasty).

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