Anyone familiar to NYC knows that malls aren’t common-place. You have your infamous shopping districts like soho, or your defunct Manhattan Mall where you can buy knock off Nikes and Hotdogs-on-a-stick, but a high end, fashion forward shopping mall is just something that Manhattan hasn’t supported, until now.
As a native New Yorker I hated Hudson Yards before it was even built. The idea of modern cathedral to illusive brands in the heart of what used to be the grit and grime of a soulful section of town was just footnote to the long diatribe about how Time’s Square used to be cool before Disneyfication. Anyone with proper experience will tell you it is easier to get an airline to wave a baggage fee then to have a New Yorker change their mind, yet here I was, upon first viewing of the glorious Hudson Yards, genuflecting as a complete convert. To my right was a frankly fighting concert hall with a retracting roof that looked like something out of a Michael Bay film. In front of me was a gleaming steel and glass palace to the finest retail humans could waist their hard earned coin on. At the center was, well, the Hive, the Giant Shawarma, the Mothership; a walkable art installation named “The Vessel” whose purpose was simply to amaze, and it does.
Dashing inside the mall you will encounter a shopping district similar to the grand concourses found in Singapore or Jakarta. Extremely exclusive shops, and high end restaurants inhabit the wide marble births of this cavernous 5 story womb to commerce. You can find anything here, from fashion to fragrance, candy to cars, and lots to nibble on in between. While you can opt for the extravagance of Milos, one of the finest restaurants in all of Manhattan, my personal favorite is Belcampo, part butcher part italian nibble shop, who’s hamburger is one of my favorites in the city; somehow light and airy while being extremely rich and lush at the same time. It’s best to grab a bite at one of the dozens of eateries before heading out to conquer The Vessel, and interactive art installation by madman Thomas Heatherwick which is comprised of over 2,500 individual steps and 80 landings offering some of the most unique views and instagrammable moments in the world.
I am the first person to admit I am horribly critical of anything new, especially when it changes the landscape of my beloved home NYC. It took me 40 of the 80 landings before I realized what “The Vessel” really offered; a fresh new perspective on a already well tread city. It is easy to make fun of The Vessel; it stands out sorely, serves no immediate purpose, and is for all intensive purposes a piece of pedestrian commercial art. Once inside however all that falls to the waist side as a unique and new view of the great city of Manhattan unfolds in front of you. The platforms form individual viewpoints, perfect picture frames that put you in heaven’s path above the bustling metropolis below. It is difficult, if not impossible to explain the feeling of being part of a piece of art, and a piece of a city, at the same time. Perhaps “purposeful grace” is about as close as I can come to explaining the calm satisfaction being in The Vessel.
It must be said that those who control the admittance do a fine job not to crowd the experience, giving you a timed ticket that you must procure ahead of time to enter the artpiece. Once inside you are left to your own devices, and while there are a decent amount of photofiends and instagrannys floating around, there seemed to always be enough space to make your digital mark online.
Hudson Yards is a mall. It has shops, restaurants, and corporate artwork. While it may not be the independent, born from strife and passion attraction that New York prides itself on, it is perhaps the best example of what commercial city planning can offer to an otherwise defunct section of a city. If nothing less, it offers some pretty good instagram moments and one hell of a burger.