Monday, November 26, 2007

Weehawken St.

A Hidden Place:
By David Crohn

(Originally appeared in Our Town Downtown in October 2006)

The Creator may have a master plan, but He hasn’t been anywhere near Weehawken St. Weehawken, the smallest street in Manhattan, is a hodge podge, proof positive that downtown evolved willy nilly—in defiant contrast to Midtown’s even grids and Squares.
At least one quarter of this block—which, by the way, makes up the entire street, between Christopher to the south, West 10th to the north, and one block over from the West Side Highway, euphemized West Street—is a handsome five-story building in white and green that wouldn’t look out of place near Fifth Ave. below 14th St. It’s probably the only piece of residential real estate on the block that can yield a healthy market rate (see below).
Then there’s the rest of the block. Two doors south of the 3-5 Weehawken St. Condominiums, as they’re known, is the slimy back end of a bar around the corner. One door south is the mysterious 7 Weehawken St., whose ghosts couldn’t be reached for this story.
Across from the Condos is a historic cottage that was just purchased for $2.2 million by the son of sculptor Louise Bourgeois. Jean-Louis Bourgeois, who also owns real estate in Africa and New Mexico, plans to fill the front, commercial end of the building facing West St. with a museum dedicated to water and the waterfront. Once a pickup dive for late-night cruisers fresh off the PATH train, then a porn shop, 392 West Street will, if Bourgeois has his soggy druthers, house a fully functioning waterfall, reaching partially underground.
Like we said, a hodge podge.
A warning to amateur surveyors and TV tour guide planners: The residents of this block frown on visitors. On a recent trip there, your inquisitive correspondent failed to draw little besides a dirty look and a grunt from a super taking out the garbage and a young woman applying a fresh coat of paint to 3 Weehawken’s fa├žade.
Other than snoopers, Weehawken St. residents have a complaint that can be universally justified. Residents, and especially their forefathers, really hate when truckers, cabs, pedestrians or anyone else stop to pee there. So much so that along the west end of the street there are five signs asking people not to urinate, with four different ways of saying it. Our favorite, writ large in ye olde typeface: “Please respect our neighbors and our NEIGHBORHOOD. Do not urinate on this Block.”

Unless you can make do with a refrigerator box and SOMEWHERE ELSE TO URINATE, the only viable place to live on the block is at the 3-5 Weehawken St. Condominiums. But it’s a nice place. After the apartments were converted in April, most of the renters bought in quickly at a reduced rate, said Carolyn Palmieri, a broker who works for the management company. The two units left—one at number 3, one at 5, both one-bedrooms—are selling for $1,000 per square foot. That’s relatively inexpensive for the Far West Village. But what makes that price a steal, at least for one of those units, is that it provides river views, and as anyone familiar with Manhattan real estate can tell you, river views are precious. And because the city designated the area a Historic District in May, that view is here to stay.

None available since April.

Residents and Regulars
Handbag designer and former White House page Monica Lewinsky lives and shops for groceries at the Archives, nearby at 666 Greenwich St.

What Happened Here
Perhaps ghosts really do haunt the block. The boundaries of the new Weehawken Street Historic District are partially concurrent with the walls of the Newgate State Prison, which closed in 1797. In 1834 the city gave the area another shot, building a market along the newly cut alley consisting of “a wooden open-shed structure with wide overhanging eaves, a building type that was the most common for markets in the United States in the 19th century,” according to the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. But nobody shopped there, and the market closed. Shipbuilder George M. Munson built a saloon out of remnants of the market in 1867, one of the first documented liquor businesses in the area. The address—392 West Street.

Let’s see, besides the big D’Agostino a short walk over to Greenwich St., there’s the Badlands porn emporium on West St. and the Dugout gay sports bar a few steps away on Christopher. Which is to say, you got it all.

Perfect for
Manhattanites who drive. The history buff. Those who long to see Jersey. Gustave von Aschenbach.

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