MrJumbo’s New York: Chelsea by Night

Looking north up Seventh Avenue toward Times Square. The Macy's sign, vertical in the top center, is at 34th Street, 3/4 mile away from my building.

Chelsea windows. (Click on the picture for a bigger version.)

At the corner of 23rd Street and Seventh Avenue, two classic New York institutions have faced each other across the street for decades: the Chelsea Hotel and the McBurney YMCA.

The Chelsea Hotel is where Bob Dylan and Dylan Thomas and Thomas Wolfe all stayed, where Joni Mitchell wrote “Chelsea Morning,” where Sid killed Nancy. It’s got a New Orleans façade with wrought iron balconies, and it’s been there for a thousand years.

The McBurney Y also predates most people alive today. I used to tell people it was where basketball was invented, but I think I was exaggerating. It is the YMCA the Village People sang about in their famous song (“You can hang out with all the boys”), and it’s also provided inexpensive housing and cultural events for a neighborhood that’s seen prices skyrocket in recent years.

Lately I hear talk of closing the McBurney Y to put in some kind of condos instead. I earnestly hope it doesn’t happen. It’s bad enough to stick a tall building where there used to be a flea market on the weekends. But to take out an institution with soul, with roots, a building whose history is so intimately intertwined with Chelsea’s, is to gut the neighborhood, to carve away at the very thing that draws people to it.

Anyhow, this is a night shot of a classic scene that may not be around forever—the McBurney Y is on the right; the Chelsea Hotel on the left (the white neon sign). Click on the picture for an enlarged version.

A building on the north side of Madison Square.

A magnificent façade from the old Ladies’ Mile, a stretch of Sixth Avenue south of 23rd Street where stately department stores lined up for customers around the turn of the century. Macy’s used to be down here, and F.A.O. Schwarz; gradually they all moved further north, and by the mid-’80s many of these grand old buildings, now decrepit, sat empty.

Around the mid-’90s the neighborhood picked up again; one by one the buildings were reoccupied and renovated. Modern merchandisers like Barnes & Noble; Bed Bath & Beyond; Filene’s Basement; Old Navy; and Starbucks have moved in where New York’s rich once shopped.

(Click on the picture for a bigger version.)

Walkers at Night

Jumbo New York Links

World Trade Center Disaster September 11, 2001 . . . Page 2

Chelsea . . . *Chelsea by Night . . . More Chelsea . . . *Night in New York
*Empire State Building . . . *and Friends . . . *Where’s the Fire Escape?
Waterfront . . . Water Towers . . . West Village . . . Statue of
In House . . . Out of House . . . Midtown . . . Architecture . . . Blizzard of ’96
*The B.M.W. . . . *Y2K New Year’s Eve 1 . . . *Y2K2 . . . *Berenice Abbott

*New and Improved (April 2000)

Back to New York Index

Back to MrJumbo’s home page