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Diamond-paved, Deal-obsessed

By Author: Andrew Sully
Total Articles: 4

A tall man in a black coat sees a woman standing near his storefront window display of gold necklaces and engagement rings.

“If you like something, ask me, gorgeous,” he says. He pulls a few compliments from his playbook. But he breaks away, turning his attention to a passing man. “Buddy, want to come in?” he says. Down the street a man chases after a pedestrian, stressing, “I want to see you get a good deal.”

And so these salesmen, who work in Manhattan’s diamond district, are left to attempt their pitches again, in hopes of luring someone to buy jewelry.

Some avoid this busy strip on West 47th Street from Fifth Avenue to the Avenue of the Americas, wary of its never-ending hustle. Fueled by its culture of high-octane salesmanship, the strip has a distinct life of its own, caught here by the photographer Christian Hansen.

“The street is vital to who we are, and we are vital to the street,” said Yale Zoland, of the family-run jewelry store Zoland.

An old ultra-Orthodox man sits in a wheelchair as pedestrians flood past, his prosthetic leg visible, a bulge of yellow foam popping from a crack on it. A blind man holding a coin-filled container has eye sockets so deep it appears he may have no eyes within them.

“Once you enter the diamond district, it’s a whole different world,” said David Avianne, 23, the manager of the family-operated Avianne & Co. “It’s a trillion-dollar block.”

“There’s competition on this block,” he said, summing up the guiding principle of the approximately 2,600 businesses in the district. “People will lose money to get the deal.”

Mike Nektalov, a manager at Leon Diamond, felt that the aversion some New Yorkers have to the district was undeserved. He pointed to an elderly man working in the shop: his grandfather. “This street,” he said, “is the reason he was able to live the American dream.”

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