"You can't preserve everything," Florent Morellet, pioneering meat-market restaurateur, said Thursday night at a Historic Districts Council screening of the 2009 documentary about the rise and fall of his eponymous French diner. The stories of Morellet, his restaurant (which closed in '08), and the meat market have been well told over the years, but the Frenchman's rebirth as a quasi-anti-preservationist could be fresh narrative terrain: Now a member of the community board that serves the neighborhood, Soho, in which he lives, Morellet professed to have lost interest in the meatpacking district, having turned his attention instead to high-rises, urban density, and sustainability.
"It's not about the buildings, it's about the people," he ramblingly opined after the screening at the Tribeca Film Center. "That's what we as preservationists have to think about. High rise is the future, that's what's sustainable. We have to start leveling the suburbs and bringing them to the city, to the core, where there's transit. Apartment buildings of 100 stories! Going against that is immoral, because it's green."
Not exactly the talking points of New York's historic-preservation community, whose latest success is getting a distinctly low-rise section of the East Village landmarked, but that's part of Morellet's charm: he's unpredictable.
He's also, again, ahead of the trend. "There should be high rises on the avenues of the East Village," he said—and along the northern reaches of Third Avenue, there already are.