Feels Like 2007 in Here
Dana Rubinstein Oct. 20, 2009, 6:46 p.m.
“I think every hotel has a psyche.”
That was Jason Pomeranc, who, as co-founder of Thompson Hotels, has fashioned himself New York’s innkeeper to the image-conscious. Last Friday afternoon, he arrived promptly to his newish hotel in New York, the 100-room Smyth Tribeca at 85 West Broadway, dressed for the part: rumpled and rough shaven, dark hair gelled back, revealing a face whose close-set brown eyes recalled Patrick Swayze, and whose full cheeks recalled Tim Russert. He wore a black jacket over a gray sweater, distressed jeans and canvas sneakers without shoelaces.
“As you can see, the hotel has a kind of eclectic, masculine point of view,” Mr. Pomeranc continued. As he spoke, his right hand on his hip, his left a half-open gesticulating claw, two striking women in black V-necks sauntered by and assumed their positions behind the check-in desk, which, with its backdrop of glass shelves occupied by vaguely menacing cohorts of antique toys, looked more like a bar in a hip financier’s Tribeca loft.
“It has a touch of the bachelor pad,” Mr. Pomeranc said. “That doesn’t mean it’s not extremely welcoming to the female psyche as well.”
He rolled through the hotel lobby, followed by a coterie of female press attachés and his general manager, pointing out the mid-century Brazilian furniture, the pencil drawings by Santiago Rubino. The décor, he said, was evocative of both The Thomas Crown Affair and male suit material. A bar filled out the end of the room. Its surface was made of glass manipulated to look like a thick block of ice, and its wall was covered with pink crocodile leather.
“Downtown,” proclaimed Mr. Pomeranc of his target market, “is effectively melding into one neighborhood.”
“Yes and no. It’s not so much that the neighborhoods are diluting, it’s that the psychology of the guests is opening up.
“I think the real separation now is between uptown and downtown.”
Lest there be any doubt, Mr. Pomeranc, 38, and a Soho resident, is of the downtown ilk. Though it took him a while to get there. He grew up in Queens and then on 67th Street and Fifth Avenue on the Upper East Side. He ultimately transitioned downtown via an N.Y.U. education and well-publicized relationships with the actress Shannen Doherty and Ali Wise, the former Dolce publicist now in the tabloids for allegedly hacking into the phones of her ex-boyfriends’ girlfriends.
Does he worry that he opened his hotel in one of the worst economic downturns to hit New York since the 1930s?
“Look, I think you always do,” he said, leaning, ankles crossed, against the brown leather walls of the elevator, which was carrying him to a ninth-floor “signature suite.” “I hope, at least, or I believe, the worst of that cycle is behind us.”
The elevator opened onto a hallway painted chocolate brown. “Hotels,” he continued, “in a down cycle are the first to suffer, and in an up cycle, they are the first to return.”
The signature suite felt more like an apartment. A perfect apartment. Tom Dixon–designed cone lights. A full kitchen. A full kitchen table. Extraordinary views. On the wall was a piece by John Sparagana, who deconstructs fashion photographs.
We descended to the ground floor, where famed French restaurateur Frederick Lesort will reopen the Jour et Nuit brasserie this spring, the bar and lounge in the basement below.
Back in the lobby, Mr. Pomeranc posed for a photograph. Which, thanks to concerns about his appearance, turned into a 29-minute photo shoot. The wispy, Chapin-educated Lake Bell dropped by. She was shooting a new HBO show upstairs called How to Make It in America. She wore chunky high heels, skinny pants and her long brown hair half tied back. Mr. Pomeranc kissed her broad-cheekboned face hello.
“You’re doing a photo shoot?!” she giggled.
IN MORRIS MOINIAN’S NEW Hotel Indigo at 127 West 28th Street, one image is painted on the walls opposite the elevator banks on every floor. It’s a photo by fashion photographer Marco Glaviano of a dark-haired woman in a flowing violet dress holding a dark umbrella jauntily over her head as she saunters through the rain.
At the hotel, she’s known as “the rain lady.”
Last Wednesday, Joe Moinian’s little brother Morris, 47, sat on the blue velvety couch at the Hotel Indigo’s entrance between Sixth and Seventh avenues.
From the outside, the Indigo looks like something the hotelier-to-the-masses Sam Chang–Gene Kaufman machine might build. Aside from the glass overhang on the ground level, and an angled glass window, the facade was basically dull bare brick.
Mr. Moinian, like his older brother, a big developer, started out in the garment business. And, like his older brother, Mr. Moinian is an unabashed dandy. That Wednesday afternoon, he wore a double-breasted suit over a white mesh shirt, a polka-dot tie stopping an intentional inch above his waistline, and pointy-toed loafers with little heels.
The hotel had opened the day before. It is Mr. Moinian’s only hotel in New York City. He used to own the Dylan on 41st Street, where he earned notoriety for his and business partner Britney Spears’ failed restaurant NYLA.
He sold the Dylan in 2007, he says for “economical reasons, a cashing-in of profits.”
His new venture is the 122-room Indigo, part of the Intercontinental Hotel Group. Another developer is building a Hotel Indigo on Duffield Street in downtown Brooklyn.
If Mr. Pomeranc’s Smyth harks back to the pre-cataclysm days when pink crocodile skin was considered an appropriate wall-covering, Mr. Moinian’s new boutique feels decidedly more cost-conscious. The lighting fixtures don’t seem quite so extravagant (or attractive). The dominant artwork is not original, but rather photographs licensed from Mr. Glaviano.
“The entire property is very vibrant, colorful, which I believe is the way to go in the future,” Mr. Moinian said. “You walk in the room, and the room smiles at you.”
He was standing in a room on the building’s 18th floor. There was a large flat-screen TV, white and red couches atop a red area rug. Wood floors. A mural of spools of thread recalling the hotel’s proximity to the Fashion Institute of Technology.
Mr. Moinian peered out the window, admiring the skyline of water tanks, and guffawed at a neighboring rooftop covered with a motley array of potted plants. “Take a look—the guy is like in the Hamptons,” laughed Mr. Moinian. We were in the flower district. The hotel itself is couched in between Associated Cut Flower and 28th Street Orchids.
“Now, we’ll show you our rooftop!” Mr. Moinian said.
The rooftop will be called the Glass Bar. It takes its name from the 7-foot-high perimeter glass separating drinkers from the abyss below, and it will be lit indigo blue.
“Blue lights all around, blue light everywhere,” said George Buchelli, the hotel’s general manager.
“I’m saving the best for last,” Mr. Moinian said. “Next stop is the restaurant, called the Blu, B-L-U.”
“You will love it. It’s full of art. Full of charm,” he said. “It’s designed in a very clubby atmosphere.”
Indeed, the restaurant looked charming. There were Italian-style chandeliers, forty colorful, happy photographs by Jonas Mekas. “Also, the mirrors are angled so you can see everybody from every point in the restaurant,” Mr. Moinian said.
Two men walked by carrying a plastic bin full of raw, beheaded chickens.
Mr. Moinian led the way to the kitchen, from whence, presumably, the chickens came. There, Roberto Bellissimo, formerly of Le Cirque, will reign.
Perhaps it’s a prerequisite of the hotel developer gig, but Mr. Moinian, like Mr. Pomeranc, professed himself utterly lacking in fear amid the economic wreckage.
“It’s going to be great,” Mr. Moinian said softly, back in the lobby, nary a smile to be seen on his weary-looking face. “It’s going to be great.”