2005_03_spas_USQ.jpgIt's true there was a time when the area around Union Square was pretty honky tonk; crack dealers owned the park, and 99-cent stores, fast food chains and psychics were pretty much the only business on 14th Street. At the time, it was hardly the neighborhood for a high-end spa, and could have been aptly decribed as "gritty."

But in classic Times fashion, writer Jennifer Steinhauer was a little behind the curve in her article yesterday about the plethora of spas that have popped up in the area. It's a bit of stretch to talk about "bulging futons spilling into the street, and the odoriferous flow of fried chicken and burgers from every corner," as representative of the area anymore; sure, there's a Wendy's and a few psychics, but the transformation of 14th street and the Union Square area in general has been happening for a decade, and the headline, "On Gritty Sidewalks, Pampered Feet," is no more apt here than it would be describing the Meatpacking District or the Lower East Side. Pampered feet are everywhere in the city.

That notwithstanding, it is curious why so many new spas, particularly, should choose to congregate in these few blocks. The article says the places' owners were drawn by the large numbers of nearby students from NYU, Pratt, Parsons and the New School, but students (at least those not supplementing their income through prostitution, drug dealing or trust funds) are notoriously poor. More likely the places are counting on arts and media types (metrosexuals et al.) to migrate down from the Flatiron District and up from the Village.