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1980s prostitutes-jeff cowen-meatpacking district-nycImage source: Vanishing New York

A recent article on Vanishing New York shines the spotlight on Jeff Cowen’s photographs of transgender sex workers in the Meatpacking District during the 1980s, five of which are kept in the New York Historical Society’s library. At the time these pictures were taken, AIDS fears were reaching its peak and caused the closing of many gay sex clubs in the area. This, along with the closing of meatpacking plants and an influx of artists made for a thoroughly changed neighborhood. As Jeremiah of Vanishing New York  eloquently writes, the photographs show “desolate streets at the psychic edge of the city.”

The 90’s ushered in the bar Hogs & Heifers who had a tumultuous relationship with the working girls. The Hogs instigated fights; owner Allan Dell (at one time the owner of Katz’s Deli) reportedly told New York Magazine he liked to shine his headlights on sex workers watch them “run like cockroaches.” Prior to this, some residents felt protected by the sex workers, writes Jeremiah of Vanishing New York.

Jeff Cowen-Meatpacking District-Prostitutes-Vintage Photos

At the dawn of the new millennium, the Meatpacking district became popular with a gentrifying crowd , making it impossible for most of the girls to continue their lives in the Meatpacking District. The NYPD successfully harassed the transgender girls out of the neighborhood. Click here for photographs of the Meatpacking district in the 1990s from Vanishing New York.

See our previous article featuring the striking photographs of the Meatpacking District in the 1990s by Gregoire Allessandrini.

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