May 4, 2003
12th Ave. Truck Sign Refurbished
By JOSH BARBANEL
Perched two stories above seven lanes of traffic along the Hudson, the Mack tractor-trailer emblazoned with the name Yale symbolized the gritty industrial role of the far West Side for decades. Now the headlights in the sign, above 12th Avenue just north of the sleek glass and concrete facade of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, have flicked on again after being dark for years, and the side of the truck sports a new logo.
The name on the old sign had stood for Yale Express Systems, once a major regional trucking company that teetered on the brink of bankruptcy through much of the 1970's before collapsing into insolvency.
The nine-story terminal that covers most of a city block between 39th and 40th Street has been mostly vacant since 1978, and in January 2000, the Convention Center paid $68.5 million for the site. Its expansion into the site is part of a long-delayed plan to transform the area into a new upscale neighborhood of residential towers and office buildings.
But the purchase of what is known as the Yale Building has given the sign and the neighborhood a new blue-collar life. While waiting, the Convention Center leased out space in the huge building to United Rentals, an equipment rental and supply company with 750 branches across the country.
United has refurbished the truck sign, repairing the sheet metal panels, restoring the white headlights and the yellow flashing lights that make the truck's wheels seem to revolve and painting its logo on the sign. It turned the lights on last week. "We all like to see some remnant of our history survive," said John N. Milne, president of United Rentals.
All this provides some cheer to activists trying to stop the Convention Center's expansion and to maintain an eclectic neighborhood. "People are seeing blue-collar jobs disappearing," said Meta Brunzema, an architect preparing an alternative plan for the Hell's Kitchen Neighborhood Association. "There is a real concern in the community that a vibrant mix be maintained." *
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company