Hotel on Rivington has got a lot going for it — jaw-dropping views, stunning Bisazza-tiled bathrooms with deep Japanese-style soaking tubs, a location in one of Manhattan’s most multi-layered neighborhoods. The real ace up its sleeve, however, is head concierge Adam Perabo, who seems to know every hot restaurant, hidden-away bar and worthwhile gallery within a hundred blocks — plus all the secret knocks and handshakes to get you in the doors. His specialty: designing full-fledged, themed itineraries taking in everything from hyper-local art to underground dining.
When we learned that Dean Moran, the winner of our Rethink Hotels contest, would be spending his six free nights in New York at Hotel on Rivington, we decided to get in touch with Adam and ask what someone interested in architecture and design should do with his time on the Lower East Side. Not only did he answer our questions; he got to work putting together a whole itinerary for Dean, including free museum passes, a VIP crash course on the neighborhood’s graffiti, and discounts at some of his favorite local design shops.
Is there something about the Lower East Side that feels like it’s been lost in other parts of Manhattan?
The Lower East Side is a total throwback neighborhood. Sure, we’ve got posh restaurants, trendy nightclubs, underground glam-rock bars and a certain flashy glass-tower hotel, but the neighborhood has kept its authentic melting-pot personality. Stalwarts like the hundred-year-old Yonah Schimmel Knishery, Streit’s Matzos and Russ & Daughters reflect the strong Jewish heritage in the neighborhood, and these days Dominican and Puerto Rican culture influence its social fabric, too, especially in the eclectic Essex Street Market and at many authentic, family-owned cafes.
Are there some architectural landmarks that Dean will be able to see without even getting out of bed?
Dean, Dean, lucky man. He’ll be waking up high above the hustle and bustle of the Lower East Side. Our views take in the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building and of course the brand-new Freedom Tower. And then there are some unique, lesser-known landmarks, too: the Red Square Building, with its rooftop statue of Vladimir Lenin saluting the skyline of the Financial District; the Blue Building, an ultra-modern, blue-tinted tower rising toward the Williamsburg Bridge; and scores of 19th-century tenement buildings covered in tags, reading like a who’s-who of New York City’s graffiti scene.
What’s a good first stop in the neighborhood for someone interested in architecture?
The very first stop should be in our beautiful Lobby Lounge overlooking Rivington Street through floor-to-ceiling windows. Then it’s off to the New Museum. A few blocks from the hotel, this contemporary art museum is an artwork in itself. Imagine seven stacked aluminum mesh rectangles rising a hundred seventy-five feet above the Bowery. It is an astonishing site. And, oh yeah, there’s a whole museum full of art inside too. Another must-see is the New York by Gehry Building, Frank Gehry’s beautiful, bending skyscraper at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge.
You’ve mentioned both the New Museum and the neighborhood’s graffiti. Can you tell us a little more about the mix of art around the hotel?
The gallery scene in the Lower East Side is the best in New York in my opinion. I’m talking about the combination of innovative work inside galleries like the Krause Gallery, Artifact, Laurel Gitlen and Poppington along with the gallery that is quite literally in the streets. Right now the canvas of the neighborhood is changing. Street art is a living, growing movement in the LES, and there’s new work to check out every day. For anyone who wants to see it up-close, the tour company Graff Tours does graffiti crash courses in the neighborhood and beyond.
Where should someone with an eye for design go to pick up some souvenirs?
The New Museum also has a great gift shop, but definitely don’t miss the MoMA gift shop for prime design-oriented gifts and housewares; The Future Perfect, a high-end design shop on Great Jones Street; and Kiosk, which is an adventure just to find — to get there, look for a big, pink-neon arrow on Spring Street and walk up the graffiti-clad flight of stairs to this crazy-creative shop hidden on the 2nd floor. Kiosk is where I do all my holiday shopping. (Just don’t tell my friends and family.)
New York – Where to Eat
Oooh, this is a tasty little tidbit of a question. Lots to choose from within a few blocks of the hotel. Preserve 24 is like an art exhibit that just happens to serve amazing food and cocktails to a very cool, downtown NYC clientele. The space is full of beauty and ingenuity, from its repurposed canoe-oar ceiling fans to its underground “Piano Bar” which is literally hung from the ceiling by piano strings. Beauty & Essex is a grandiose bi-level restaurant hidden behind a faux pawn shop front. (Pro-Tip: the ladies room features a free champagne bar.) Freemans is located at the end of Freeman Alley, which is famous for great street art, off of Rivington Street. The interior is like a hip hunting lodge with its taxidermy and hardwood floors. Rumor has it that President George W. Bush’s daughters showed up to Freeman’s on a busy Saturday Night in 2005 and were told the wait for their table would be “4 more years.”
Nightlife in New York
A drink and a small plate in our ground-floor restaurant Co-Op Food & Drink is the way to get the evening started. Sidle up to the gold-tiled bar or grab a sidewalk table and watch the LES cruise by. Later on, head over to Jack’s Wife Freda on Lafayette Street and enjoy some South African/Israeli home-cookin’ and their cool, effortless charm. For music, see what’s on at the Bowery Ballroom, Brooklyn Bowl, Roseland Ballroom or Radio City. If you’ve got a little something left, have a nightcap at the Dead Rabbit, a hot new haunt down on Water Street, or Little Branch, reached through an unmarked black door in the West Village. And if you are just getting warmed up, walk a few blocks from the hotel and head over the Williamsburg Bridge to hit the new, neon-bombshell nightclub Output. Then coconut water and sunglasses. You are a star!