A visit to Hudson Yards, on the cheap

The multibillion-dollar West Side development is no yard sale.
The multibillion-dollar West Side development is no yard sale. Photo Credit: Marcus Santos

Have you been to The Shops at Columbus Circle? How about the stores at Brookfield Place in Battery Park City? Or the mall at Queens Center? Maybe Kings Plaza on Flatbush Avenue?

Then you’ve basically been to Hudson Yards, the multibillion-dollar cluster of skyscrapers and Instagram picture takers that just opened on Manhattan’s west side.

There has been a lot of hullabaloo about the massive construction project that led to what the developers call New York’s newest neighborhood. It’s certainly an engineering wonder: multiple structures built above a decked-over rail yard, putting something where there wasn’t much before. It was a project that gained steam as NYC recovered from the Sept. 11 attacks and includes new, mostly luxury housing, a high-tech performance space, park and art areas, a continuation of the High Line, and an extension of the 7 train  that part was paid for by the taxpayers, a big chunk of the way toward what a New School analysis estimates was close to $6 billion in different forms of public aid for the project. Supporters say, wait for all the new business this will gin up. Some sections of the “neighborhood” are still being finished.

The shopping center, however, is open and free to be wandered. It’s a mall, the kind of place that smells like perfume in the perfume sections and food in the food court sections.

A pop-up card of Paris available at one of the shops in the Hudson Yards mall, as seen on Wednesday.
A pop-up card of Paris available at one of the shops in the Hudson Yards mall, as seen on Wednesday. Photo Credit: AmNewYork/Mark Chiusano

One difference between some of the aforementioned malls and this one is that the one off 10th Avenue is pretty expensive. As in:

A black T-shirt with absolutely nothing on it in a store called Adriano Goldschmied costs $88. Actually, the hem is visible on it. The material feels nice.

Or: the store called LovePop selling popup cards, like things someone gets along with a present, says “cool!” and then throws out. There are cards where a Star Wars X-Wing emerges, also one of the Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel Tower one costs $15.

Many New Yorkers already know the names of most of the stores in the mall because they are the high-end stores in high-end malls. Neiman Marcus, for one, differentiates itself with a mural-collage sort of thing that features a guy in a dark suit and white shirt with his arm around another guy with a dark suit and white shirt. The first guy is pouring what looks like champagne into a glass on top of another glass upside down on top of four other glasses right side up. The champagne is dripping, and the second guy is watching with excitement. Next to them, for good measure, is a red-headed woman wearing turquoise earrings staring away from the champagne, at you, dear shopper.

There is an info screen flashing this message: “Did You Know? 35 Hudson Yards is home to the world’s very first Equinox Hotel.”

A mural at the Neiman Marcus department store in Hudson Yards as seen on Wednesday.
A mural at the Neiman Marcus department store in Hudson Yards as seen on Wednesday. Photo Credit: AmNewYork/Mark Chiusano

If none of that entices you, you’ll probably soon be headed to one of the other major attractions now open at Hudson Yards: the Vessel, a vase-like collection of 154 connected flights of stairs. You can wait in line to get a free ticket and climb for the view of Jersey and beyond.

On the approach, the chrome-colored structure designed by Thomas Heatherwick and Heatherwick Studio looks a little bit like a hive and also like a mask from an Avengers sort of movie. But, honestly, pick your analogy: One sidewalk chalk-writing wag inscribed the following onto 11th Avenue: “HEY NEW YORK, GEORGE LUCAS CALLED…HE WANTS HIS DEATH STAR BACK!”

“Very amazing,” said Noel Bruno, 24, after taking a picture. The self-described influencer asked, “how much?”

His friend gave him the reported $200 million figure.

Personally, I think a better riverside attraction is the Irish Hunger Memorial, a sleekly built rectangular hill toward the bottom tip of the island that transports you to an Irish landscape including abandoned stone cottage, all of it, you know, actually meaning something.

But climbing the Vessel is something to do, and maybe it will become a beloved icon.

Underneath it, Barbara Lister, 77, summed up the sculpture and the hustle and bustle of people by calling all of it “fabulous.” A little different than the area used to be when she arrived in the 1970s. Then it was “fabulously louche,” she said: sex workers, people flashing passerby, the occasional gunshots.

We stared up at the Vessel  Lister, who uses a motorized wheelchair, chose not to wait in line (there is an elevator). The structure’s reflective sections showed the images of all the people down below, wandering, gazing up, a comforting ballet of togetherness on the first day of spring.

That view was immediate at least, and nice if you’re on a budget, different from the mall. Lister, who lives in the London Terrace Towers in Chelsea, didn’t think she’d be pulling out her wallet there. She said she did lots of shopping at the Salvation Army.

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