Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Diamond in the Rough

Although it's been in the works for at least a year now, there was something discombobulating about seeing the southeast side of 8th Avenue and 22nd Street (partially) transformed into such a clean and thoroughly modern dwelling this afternoon. You see, the past 10 years I've lived here in Chelsea that corner has been the site of one of the city's few remaining Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotels -- and let's just say it wasn't exactly the kind of place Buffy and Hildegarde were living in back in the '80s. When the residents weren't outside screaming and punching one another, they were busy watching their portable television inside Starbucks or trolling the local supermarket aggressively trying to talk you into letting them buy your groceries for you with their food stamp cards in exchange for your cash. (It wasn't to buy drugs or alcohol, of course. It was so they could get a "hot meal," something the welfare office apparently won't spring for.) What was once a strangely dangerous pocket in an otherwise small-town-feeling neighborhood -- I've had friends attacked by some of the denizens of the Allerton -- appears to be on its way to becoming a boutique hotel called The Gem. While I may complain about the Mom and Pop eateries turning into chain restaurants, you won't hear me complaining about this upgrade ...

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