Vanishing New York
Last year, when the second part of the High Line opened, I wondered how long the sex-positive Folsom Street East festival would survive on West 28th, now that the once-desolate block has become a destination for tourists and condo-buyers. Soon after, I looked at the arrival of massive condo-box Avalon West Chelsea, coming to the same block, right across the street from the Eagle gay leather bar, and predicted that the Eagle would not last much longer, either.
As we come up on the 16th annual Folsom East fair this weekend, we hear from an anonymous resident of 540 West 28th (the +ART building) that those dire predictions may already be coming true. Folsom East and the Eagle, he tells us, are not long for this rapidly changing world.
Construction began on the +ART building in 2008, when there was nothing on that block except for a gay bar, a strip club, a scrap yard, a truck yard, and some autobody shops. Our anonymous interviewee has lived there for the past year. He bought the condo because he, like many of his neighbors, was attracted to "the building, view of the river, wide open space, proximity to Chelsea Piers, High Line, and the Hudson River Park."
I asked him some questions and he provided us with an inside look into how the new condo dwellers of the High Line are forcing change on the once-wild, westernmost hinterlands of Chelsea.
Q: What is the prevailing opinion about the Folsom East fair among your neighbors--how do people talk about the fair?
A: It's a mixed bag. The primary issue is the zero access to the building without walking through the fair itself where lewd conduct and nudity isn't uncommon. Those with children find it particularly difficult.
Q: In what way have the neighbors organized, and what is your goal in terms of the fair--do you want it to stop running, move to another block? What are the neighbors doing to meet this goal?
A: Residents from several surrounding buildings have passed fliers asking our residents to write to the Community Board to relocate or totally eliminate Folsom Street East because "fetish" fairs shouldn't be allowed so close to so many residential buildings. There's word that a petition of some sort will be circulated but I'm not exactly sure what the details are.
A letter was written to the Community Board asking how they can assure residents access to the building without having to walk through the fair itself. Another suggestion was to move it to the next block where it's bordered (for now) by commercial on two sides, Con Ed to the north, and West Street.
The primary issue for us at 540 W 28th isn't the Eagle or even Folsom Street East. It's allowing residents access to the building without having to go through the fair itself. Other residents of the surrounding buildings and even my own building may have additional concerns with regard to the lewd conduct and nudity in full view from their units. ...
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