Step back 25 years in time to the gritty days of New York City's Meatpacking District

It’s almost hard to conceive how much New York City has changed over the past 25 years. Derelict industrial zones and abandoned buildings have been transformed into a hub of industry; what was once a wasteland now is a clean, safe, and very expensive city.

Photographer Grégoire Alessandrini remembers the old days, though, before all that gentrification. He recently began posting images he shot of Manhattan during the early and mid-nineties on his blog, and they create a fantastic window into another time. Alessandrini captured all sides of the city, and all the characters who inhabited its scenes.

We put together a slideshow of old photos of Chelsea and the Meatpacking District, two neighbourhoods that have seen extensive growth and change over the years. You can see many more images of New York on Alessandrini’s blog, where you can also buy prints of his work.

Since the 1900s, the Meatpacking District was used for just that...

...packing meat and shipping it off to retailers.

However, by the time Alessandrini got there, times had gotten rough.

Starting in the late 1970s, supermarkets began changing ways in which they dealt with suppliers of produce and meat, creating a downturn in the industry in places like the Meatpacking District.

Following a general and continued down period of the Manhattan waterfront, troubles continued into the 80s and early 90s, when Alessandrini photographed the area.

At this time, the area was also a hotbed for drug dealing, prostitution, and underground sex clubs.

Graffiti was everywhere, including these early pieces by the now-famous artist Shepard Fairey.

Starting in the late 1990s, however, the area began to see a change as high-end retailers and hip stores moved in and transformed the neighbourhood. Held up as a prime example of gentrification, the neighbourhood went from dangerous to blue-collar to 'the most fashionable neighbourhood in New York,' according to New York Magazine.

Today, the Meatpacking District is completely different than it was less than 25 years ago. Only 35 of the once 250 slaughterhouses and packing plants still exist.

In the 90s, the neighbourhood of Chelsea, just north of the Meatpacking District, was much the same.

It had similar industrial roots and many of its buildings were used for warehouses or factories.

In the late 1990s, artists and galleries began moving to Chelsea in search of cheaper rent. But when Alessandrini photographed the neighbourhood, it was still fairly desolate.

Even the Piers, now home to myriad of different facilities, were decrepit and seen as having little value.

Much of the area holds much importance to the history of the gay rights movement. Starting in 1969 with a police raid on a local gay bar and the ensuing anti-discrimination riots, Chelsea has since been a welcome home to the cities gay community.

It's quite amazing how uninhabited and dreary the neighbourhood looks in Alessandrini's photos, given how populated and popular it is today.

Want to see more vintage photos of the Big Apple?

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