Contributor/ Patrick Duffy
No matter where you’re from, you have a feeling when you visit Manhattan. It’s an expectation of larger than life spectacles, grand spaces, and a stylish, well-heeled, fast walking populace to brush and push past you on the sidewalk. But as amazing as Manhattan is there is something cold and corporate, an unattainability to reaching its beating heart. Don’t get me wrong, that’s part of the allure too. It’s a borough of nomads and people coming to make their dreams a reality and to reach the beating heart of community.
The hotels in Manhattan also reflect this notion too and I love them for it. They’re an amazing microcosm of what it means to be in this city. But for all that the city has, crossing Brooklyn Bridge will make you realise what it doesn’t have. As the intuitive and emotion inducing sign reads, “How Sweet It Is!”, you know you’re about to experience that ‘other side’. Brooklyn is a borough of families, deep roots, and creativity. People move slower, talk more and express themselves through the grass roots of creativity, which over the years has been ousted from Manhattan. Over the last four years there has been an explosion in Brooklyn’s now trademarked culture. It’s rugged cultural capital has manifested as a modern day thoroughfare involving Michelin starred restaurants, world-class performance venues, and yes, hotels.
A five minute subway ride from midtown Manhattan puts you in the flagship neighbourhood for modern Brooklyn, Williamsburg. Bordering Williamsburg to its north, Greenpoint has become a hub for production studios, artists and a slew of young talent. Nestled amongst old factories and an entrenched Polish community sits The Box House hotel, a converted textiles factory developed to embrace its locality. Designed by a Brooklyn artist, Kip Frace Jacob who is now known for large public murals and striking hotel design. The hotel features 52 lofts suites, each with personal design touches and many with a view of that Manhattan skyline. Walk through the doors and you’re enveloped by vaulted ceilings and a tiled marble floor gives way to the original hard wood floor of the factory and two sitting areas set with tufted sofas. Seated here, you’re surrounded by panelled windows, originals from the factory’s creation. Warm colours, soft fabrics contrasted against the industrial feel of the building’s skeleton work well to create an inviting space. The staff is tuned into the experience, so you’re unwittingly immersed into their playful world.
Brooklyn isn’t devoid of some of the larger brands either and has some already established properties. A short walk south from Greenpoint back into Williamsburg drops you on McCarren Park. On the park, Chelsea Hotels has redesigned the McCarren Hotel & Pool as an urban resort with a more laid back style, service and atmosphere. Featuring an outdoor pool and open rooftop, the property sets you up to relax. You don’t walk into a grand lobby, but you do walk into a sleek space with seating and a pool outback. Summer days are spent relaxing by the pool and ending your night on the rooftop looking across into Manhattan, cocktail in hand. Down the block from the McCarren Hotel & Pool, The Wythe caters to Brooklyn’s party crowd. With many a headline and a stunning rooftop view, this property often has a line on weekends courtesy of a storied cultural programme. Within a one block radius of each other, the two hotels have created a new kind of scene on McCarren Park.
Manhattan is a gleaming island, grand and driven whilst at the same time being uninviting and, on occasion, formulaic. All that Manhattan was in terms of cultural kudos; creative, gritty, young, original, is now found across the East River in Brooklyn. Over the years, limited supply and increased demand for residency in Manhattan’s neighbourhoods has pushed the creative class off the island and across the river. Brands and owners that share a similar aesthetic and values have tuned into Brooklyn as the place for expansion and credibility. They’ve seen the opportunity and space to draw on the boroughs’ roots, talent and unique sense of culture. Perhaps there’s no better way to illustrate this other than by saying both Ace Hotels and London’s The Hoxton hotels are eyeing space in Brooklyn.
The borough has well and truly risen, establishing a national and global identity, entirely separate from Manhattan – it’s only the beginning. Hotels are expected to open in record numbers in the coming years in anticipation of the boroughs growth. It’s almost certain that Brooklyn is the place to be in New York City, no matter where you’re from.
Image courtesy of Chelsea Hotels