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Eataly-Style Market Set for Hell's Kitchen Leaves Bad Taste in Local Mouths

By Mathew Katz | May 8, 2013 8:48am
 Gotham West Market will bring eight "artisanal" food vendors to Gotham's West 45th Street development.
Gotham West
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HELL'S KITCHEN — An Eataly-style market that will bring new gourmet options to Hell’s Kitchen has come under fire from residents who say they just want an inexpensive place to buy eggs and paper towels.

Gotham West Market, part of the Gotham Organization’s massive development at West 45th Street between 10th and 11th avenues, will bring eight “artisanal premiere restaurants and food purveyors” to a single space.

But locals, who say they face a dearth of grocery options, are afraid that “artisanal” and “premiere” are code words for “expensive.”

“We wanted a traditional, conventional, good supermarket,” said Kathleen Treat, chairwoman of the Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Association. “Instead, Gotham has already planned to set up something similar to Eataly, which is a very high-end operation.”

Several other groups that advocate for the area's less-fortunate residents also said their clients could not afford food from a high-end market, but declined to comment further.

The 5,000-square-foot market has already signed on Brooklyn Kitchen, a Williamsburg-based butcher, and Ivan Ramen, a self-proclaimed “artisanal” noodle restaurant, according to reports.

A massive residential development, Gotham West will feature 700 market-rate apartments and 500 units of affordable housing, along with a new building for P.S. 51. The development is slated to open by late summer or early fall.

The space was originally slated for a grocery store, but Gotham president David Picket told the Wall Street Journal that it would be too small to house a major supermarket.

For Treat, the high-end market is a lost opportunity to serve Hell’s Kitchen residents, who she said suffer from a lack of quality, affordable grocery stores.

“We have a Food Emporium in Manhattan Plaza, but nobody likes it. They’re overpriced, and they have no competition," she said.

“We’d love a Morton Williams or a Western Beef, or even a Trader Joe’s.”

Treat said the market had become a major topic at neighborhood association meetings, but hers was not the only organization to question it.

At a Community Board 4 Business Licenses and Permits Committee meeting in April, board members decided not to move the spot’s liquor license application forward because Gotham had not done enough community outreach and could not present a viable security plan.

According to local block associations, Gotham had done no community outreach before that meeting. A spokeswoman for the company was unable to comment for this story.

Treat admitted there was little she could do to persuade Gotham to return to its original plan to open a grocery store, and said when the market eventually opened, it would be another reminder of the increasing cost of living in Hell’s Kitchen.

“Our neighborhood is not high-end,” she said. “It’s getting that way, but it’s not there yet.”