The Wild West [Pics]

At its far western edge, 14th Street is the kind of time-lapsed parable of social transformation that quickens Manhattanites’ pulses. Nights in the meatpacking district, once punctuated by the rhythms of carcasses being loaded into trucks, have become scenes of teetering stilettos and impossibly hip clubs that were over the minute you heard about them. But just two blocks east, it’s a whole other world, where the amorphous backwaters of the Village, Chelsea and the district slosh up against each other. It’s a block of smoke shops, pawnshops, psychics and shoe repairs–a crossroads of ephemera and tradition.

The block is also the site where a cabal of nightclub promoters and fine-dining alchemists is attempting to pull off another feat of social engineering. As glassy new condominiums pump new residents into the area, the owners of soon-to-open venues like SNAP and the Darby do what they do best–pull and pry at the invisible, combustible forces of New York nightlife.