New York, New York: A Tale of Two Cities, Part I: Hotel Brooklyn Bridge


The rooftop of the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge became the summer’s ultimate hotspot for in-the-know New Yorkers. But there’s plenty more to love about this new eco-chic hotel, Estella Shardlow discovers…

A late September escape to New York. I’d pictured knitwear-clad strolls through freshly fallen leaves, crisp bright mornings, fortifying coffees behind steamed-clouded diner windows. Instead, summer decided to turn back and give the city one last show before it disappeared for another year. The mercury hit 89 degrees Fahrenheit. And as luck would have it, I was checking into a hotel with the most desirable new rooftop pool. It turned out everyone who hadn’t gone to the Hamptons for the weekend wanted to be up there.

The 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge – like its older sisters in Miami and Manhattan (Central Park) – is one of those properties where Insta-worthy shots await at every turn, thanks to its prime waterfront location and industrial eco-friendly design.

In the lobby, you’re greeted by a 25-foot living wall and an installation of tumbling obsidian rocks by artist Rachel Mica Weiss. This relaxed, airy space strikes the same clever hybrid as the Ace and Hoxton hotels: a hub for Mac-tapping millennial freelancers as much as an after-work cocktail crowd, while gym bunnies and yummy mummies grab healthy snacks from the ground-floor cafe Neighbors.

It’s aptly named, as locality permeates nearly everything in the hotel. Most furniture and artworks were created by Brooklyn studios, and many reference the waterfront’s industrial or visual heritage. There’s a staircase inspired by the Brooklyn Bridge, and embedded in the walls is granite from the same quarry that provided the materials for the bridge. Bien Hecho, based out of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, used reclaimed wood from trees felled during Hurricane Sandy, reclaimed from the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, to create custom tables for the public spaces, while timber salvaged from the Domino Sugar Factory features in pieces by Brooklyn studio Uhuru Design.

It helps that there are so many ingenious creatives crammed into this corner of New York for them to draw upon. Local bio-designer Danielle Trofe created more than 100 lampshades and planters out of mycelium (mushroom root structure) and agricultural waste such as corn stalks and seed husks. They are so sustainable you could eat them, but why would you want to when they look so stylish in situ?

These green credentials continue in the guest rooms. There are plant pots with ferns and mosses, and closets fabricated using pellets from New York City water towers, which give a somewhat cabin-like aesthetic. Rather than seeming token or comprising on style, it showed aesthetics and conscience perfectly in synch.Superfluous folders and booklets were banished in favour of a single iPad programmed to do everything from order room service to read digital papers or adjust the air conditioning.

A tap of triple-filtered water to replenish the recycled glass carafe, instead of those wasteful little plastic bottles by your beside; a chalkboard to leave messages on; hangers made from recycled paper; low energy lightbulbs…the list goes on. Where other hotels may have a timid note reminding guests to re-use towels, 1 Hotel operates entirely on wind power and uses a rain-water reclamation system to irrigate Brooklyn Park. It really does walk the walk.

Of course, the thing that made my jaw drop upon entering the room was not any of these worthwhile touches, but that view: a floor-to-ceiling window filled with the graceful sweeping steel and stone of Brooklyn Bridge. Located at Pier 1 (the ferry heads to Lower Manhattan or Governor’s Island), the hotel opens out onto Dumbo’s waterfront park, New York’s answer to Southbank if you like, dotted with courts of tanned young things playing beach volleyball or basketball. Inside the hotel, body and mind are nurtured with Sunday morning yoga classes, a Bamford Haybarn Spa, fitness centre and fresh fruit tumbling from baskets at the lobby’s complimentary ‘farm stand’.

Hipster New Yorkers and visitors alike are clearly lapping the 1 Hotel’s formula. After opening in the spring, it’s already proved a hit – there were eight weddings taking place around the hotel the weekend I stayed, a long queue into the street for access to the 10th-floor rooftop bar (which hotel guests can skip) and fully booked sunbeds for the weekly Saturday pool party. Designed for posing rather than swimming length, the infinity-edge plunge pool is cut in a geometric L-shape mirroring the building’s architecture; a trompe l’oeil effect whereby the pool seems to blend right into the Hudson, while the stately Manhattan skyline gleams across the river.

In a touching final gesture, at check-out I was handed a keepsake token made from melted nickels. It sits in my jewellery box, a reminder to carry on the philosophy now I’m back at home and to hold other hotels to the same standard. Because, really, every hotel should be taking a (recycled paper) leaf out of the 1 Hotel’s book.

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