Hudson Yards’ Iconic Pink Building Faces Demolition, a Loss for Artists

A historic building in Hudson Yards is set to be destroyed after the city claimed it through eminent domain. The space occupied by the pink brick, two-story structure—most recently home to an art gallery and a rare aquatic pet store—will become an access road between West 36th and 37th streets.

“The building is cool because it obviously doesn’t belong here,” said Lucas Zeeberg, the artist who founded the gallery named for the building’s address, 522 W. 37th St., or 522 for short. The squat, pastel structure stands out in the newly-constructed neighborhood as a relic from another time.

It occupies the shadows of Hudson Yards, the largest mixed-use private real estate project in American history, designed as a luxury enclave on Manhattan’s west side. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many Hudson Yards residents left the city and offices in the complex stood empty. Developers are still struggling to fill apartments in the neighborhood. Despite this, Hudson Yards Development Corporation is proceeding with Phase Two of its original development plan, bulldozing buildings, and businesses in the process.

The pink building is a casualty of the plan. And artists who used the space feel the city is making it harder for them to operate.

“Artists are struggling here,” said Zeeberg.

522 was an experiment in ethical art sales. It issued sales contracts that provided artists with royalties if their work was resold, ensuring creators and their families would benefit if a piece’s value ballooned.

Zeeberg was attracted to the space because of the juxtaposition of the slightly run-down building surrounded by soaring glass towers.

A luxury developer ousting artists is “a classic New York story,” Zeeberg said. After the building was slated for destruction in June, the gallery had to close with no current plans for reopening.

Manhattan Aquariums, the building’s other tenant, still rents their space for now. The business raises coral and endangered fish species, contributing animals to labs in the city that study how rising sea water temperatures will affect marine biodiversity. This vital function allowed the business to continue operating after the city claimed the building, said Greg Gruber, a coral cultivator at the business. But they are paying “substantially higher rent.”

Eventually, the aquarium plans to move to Long Island.

“We have been here for 16 years,” said Gruber. “Now we have to move for what?”

The Hudson Yards development plan includes a thin park that will stretch from West 33rd Street to West 39th Street, between 10th and 11th avenues, with a small access road alongside it. The park has already been built, with 522’s former property now designated to be knocked down at an unspecified time in the near future to build the new road to “assist with pedestrian and vehicle circulation,” according to the city’s petition for the property.

The building stands on a 2,469-square-foot lot. The city is paying $799,650 for the land and building, according to city documents. The price is less than the cost of an average condominium unit in the neighborhood, according to the Furman Center at NYU.

The city has the right to claim any private property through eminent domain in the name of “public use.” But it is not clear to everyone why the access road is necessary.

Jesse Bodine, district manager for Manhattan Community Board 4, which includes Hudson Yards, works as a liaison between the district’s citizens and city agencies. Bodine explained that zoning “requires a road around all parks.” But City Planning Department Deputy Press Secretary Joe Marvilli said there is no such rule.

“It’s a road so people from New Jersey can get to the mall faster,” said Gruber, the aquarium worker.

Community Board 4, in its 2024 statement of community needs, wrote that some of the district’s central priorities are to maintain “neighborhood character and prevent displacement and eviction of residents and small businesses.” Despite this, board member Bodine has heard no pushback on the eminent domain claim.

Wilson Reyes, a resident of one of Hudson Yards’ newly constructed apartment buildings, said he liked the pink building. “It’s cool,” he said, “but out of place.” It obstructs the newly constructed apartments from the park, he said, which “makes it a homeless site.”

Representatives for Hudson Yards Development Corp. did not respond to a request for comment.

Jean-Paul Ho, who owned the building before the city took it over, declined to comment.

With the loss of 522, Hudson Yards is “completely commercial,” said Cooper Campbell, another artist who assisted in the gallery’s programming. Gruber agreed, calling the neighborhood a “monument to capitalism.”

Furniture from the gallery now clutters Zeeberg’s living room. He now works as a freelance art handler and is unsure whether he will be able to restart the project.

About the author(s)

Bence X Szechenyi is a master’s student at Columbia University School of Journalism.