City Living: Hell's Kitchen

Crime, Law and JusticeCrimeHell's KitchenBars and ClubsDining and DrinkingRestaurantsEntertainment

What to Expect:This West Side neighborhood is dotted with shiny new condos and happening restaurants but still retains some of the grit that recalls its rough and tumble past.Hell's Kitchen got its name from a local gang that ran its tenement-lined streets in the late 1800s. Speakeasies dotted the area throughout Prohibition. And there were brothels in every back alley during Times Square's sleazy and prostitution-filled era.But most of that has changed now as the neighborhood has drawn younger and more affluent residents. Condo developments, rezoning of industrial areas and an explosion of restaurants along Ninth Avenue have smoothed Hell's Kitchen's rough edges.Bringing a touch of culture is the new Alvin Ailey dance center, a sleek, modern structure at 55th and Ninth Avenue.The neighborhood has always drawn the late-night theater crowd and as Chelsea development creeps northward, there is now an active social scene for the gay community.Where you'll find it:The neighborhood runs from the Hudson River to just west of Eighth Avenue. The southern boundary changes depending on who you talk to but starts at either 34th or 40th Street with 59th Street at the north.To Rent or Buy:To rent a decent-sized studio, you'll have to shell out between $1,600 and $2,600. One-bedroom apartments range from slightly less than $2,000 to $3,000. And a two-bedroom place begins at $2,300, according to listings on Dwellingquest.com. To buy a studio-sized condo, you'll pay between $380,000 and $560,000.Clinton or Hell's Kitchen?Real estate companies seem to use neither name for this storied neighborhood, and glaze over the area's history with the title Midtown West. But some brokers will use Clinton. Clinton is the area's name denoting its home to mayor and governor of New York, Dewitt Clinton. The Clinton family owned land in the neighborhood and Mayor Clinton once lived on 46th Street. But the edgier name for the area, Hell's Kitchen, is possibly the more popular name. With certain areas retaining the gritty atmosphere, the Hell's Kitchen moniker still sticks to the western parts of 34th to 59th Streets.Places to See:-Bar 9 building, 807 9th Ave. Once a carriage house when the area was farmland, even this nightspot's shape harkens back to the past. On Ninth Avenue, the facade is slim. From there, the building fans out into a "V" shape. Locals believe the shape saved the original owners' taxes when street-facing windows were counted to determine what was due to the government. With less front windows, the owner saved money but didn't lose in space--the back end spans about three times the width of the front. Another unusual feature for a drinking hole is a plaque honoring engineers who fought during World War I on the bar's northern wall.-Home of Harold Ross, founder of The New Yorker. Ross lived in this nondescript townhouse at 412 W. 47th St. when he founded the magazine in 1925. The only key to the cement and brick building's history is a small plaque on the facade, which notes the famous 1923 housewarming attended by Harpo Marx and George Gershwin.-Balsley Park. Named after its architect, Thomas Balsley, this urban plaza at 57th Street and Ninth Avenue is an interesting mix of mod and art deco. A coffee can-shaped cafŽ sits at the park's northern end. Trees and waves of lime-green corrugated metal fan the park's length. This public space is dotted with tables and chairs, a small play area for children and is Wi-Fi-equipped.-Joan Weill Center for Dance building, 405 W. 55th Street. Home to the famed Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, this brand new glass and metal building is the largest dance facility in the country. As one example of the neighborhood's theater and dance culture--with Theater Row just 13 blocks away--the center holds performances and the Ailey School for Dance. As one of the newest neighbors in Hell's Kitchen, the center is quite inviting and offers untrained wannabes dance lessons or dance-infused fitness classes.Places to Eat:Head down to Ninth Avenue and you'll be hard pressed to find a restaurant that won't suit your palate. Each block is crammed with restaurants from greasy joints to upscale eateries. Here are some with locals' seal of approval.Hell's Kitchen The wine-bottle chandeliers and brick walls of this Mexican restaurant recall the décor of a rustic taverna, but the sleek glass front and menu packed with fusion fare give it a mod edge. Some of the most interesting – and popular -- dishes combine traditional Mexican flavors with a variety of fish. 679 Ninth Avenue (at 47th Street)(212) 977-1588PietrasantaThis Zagat-rated Italian eatery is heavy on pasta and light on price. Sinatra fills the air and the Wednesday and weekend brunches are very popular.683 Ninth Ave.(212) 265-9471www.pietrasantanyc.comRenaissanceWith more than 200 items on the menu--and that's not including dessert options--this restaurant offers 25 seafood dishes alone. This quaint spot that boasts a fireplace and garden, which is enclosed and heated during the winter.776 Ninth Ave.(212) 246-9873EateryThis mod, aesthetically-pleasing place is enough to satiate your need for a pretty atmosphere. But don't give up on the meals, which include hearty dishes like rum-glazed pork tenderloin and extensive brunch options. 798 Ninth Ave.(212) 765-7080www.eaterynyc.comPlaces to Party:SortieThis below-ground bar is filled with dark red couches and serves tapas fare, specialty drinks and DJ-spun tunes. 329 W. 51st St.(212) 265-0650KashkavalThis cozy wine-and-cheese bar has an extensive selection of Mediterranean tapas. A market during the day, this spot's specialties are fondue, orzo and spinach pie.856 Ninth Ave.(212) 581-8282www.kashkavalfoods.comSingle Room OccupancyThis low-profile lounge recalls the speakeasies that once populated Hell's Kitchen. The sub-street level door -- marked only by a tiny green light -- is easy to miss and even once they've found it, patrons must ring a buzzer and wait outside a peephole to gain entry. Beyond the anonymous door lies a long, narrow bar with low lights, a warm vibe and an eclectic mix of loud music. S.R.O., as it's called, boasts a selection of upscale wines and beers – no hard liquor.360 W. 53rd Street 212-765-6299Places to Shop:Trendy boutiques like women's clothier LYD, at 405 W. 44th St., and specialty shops like pottery shop Mud, Sweat and Tears, at 654 10th Ave., are increasingly common here. But more shopping options lie just north of the neighborhood at The Shops at Columbus Circle (at 59th Street), which include Aveda, United Colors of Benetton and Whole Foods Market to name a few.Basics:Transportation:The A, B, C, D, E, 1 and 9 subway lines run through Hell's Kitchen. Crosstown buses M-42, M-50, M-31 and M-57 also run through the neighborhood. The Port Authority Bus Terminal sits at the southeastern end of the area at Ninth Avenue and 42nd Street.Crime:Parts of three precincts extend throughout Hell's Kitchen, but the Midtown North Precinct covers the largest area of the neighborhood. That precinct also covers Midtown West. Overall crime in the area follows the citywide trend of a 70 percent decrease in crime since 1990. Three murders occurred in 2005 compared to the same number in 2004. Last year, there were 17 rapes and 256 robberies, compared to 22 rapes and 260 robberies the previous year. In 1990, 16 murders, 18 rapes and 2,135 robberies occurred.Schools:Several public and private schools sit in the area and include Public School 51 Elias Howe School, 520 W. 45th St.; Public School 111 Adolph S. Ochs School, 440 W. 53rd St.; P.S. 212 Professional Performing Arts high School, 328 W. 48th St.; High School for Environmental Studies, 444 W. 56th St.; and Holy Cross School, 332 W. 43rd St.Post Offices:Two post offices lie near the eastern border of Hell's Kitchen. They are Radio City Post Office, 322 W. 52nd St., and Times Square Post Office at 340 W. 42nd St.Banks:There are a handful to choose from, including Citibank, 401 W. 42nd St. and Commerce Bank, 582 9th Ave.Local ViewQ&A with Thor Fields, bartender at Bar 9 and lead guitarist of local band Led BlimpieWhat's your knowledge of the neighborhood based on?I grew up at 54th and 11th and still live there. I took a bus to school when I was 7- and 8-years-old, and coming home was scary. Older kids would hang out and be up to no good. Gangs roamed the streets.Are there still gangs today?The neighborhood has changed. Gang members went to jail, but their families still lived here. I won't mention names. You see people walking down the street and think, 'That one's father was a famous guy who did this.'What do you think of the neighborhood now?I'm married and have a baby. I wouldn't want to raise a kid in the neighborhood I grew up in. But it's definitely more affluent now. It's safer now. And if you're bored and want to go out, there's always a bar or a restaurant open on Ninth Avenue.Is it Clinton or Hell's Kitchen?I don't remember anybody who lived here referring to it as Clinton. It was always Hell's Kitchen, and it will always be Hell's Kitchen. I never ran with any gangs, but I love telling people that I'm from here. There's that mystique about it.

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