A short, stocky man with a shopping bag full of swag sauntered up to the Hotel Gansevoort’s 15th-floor rooftop bar on Saturday afternoon. A bit wobbly and bordering on belligerent, he was wearing headphones. And yelling. A busy bartender, nonetheless, poured him another complimentary Peroni.
He said his name was Eliot and that he worked at Fox News. “Dude, I just talked to Karl Rove on my fucking phone,” he shouted. “You think I’m fucking with you? Mike Huckabee called me, like, three hours ago. Dude, I’m the most brilliant of the brilliant.”
Mr. Brilliant was one of scores of freeloaders on hand for the second annual meatpacking district block party, sponsored by Details magazine, with nearly 50 neighborhood businesses, from Diane von Furstenberg to YOYAMART, offering discounts to shoppers and free drinks to all comers.
The Hotel Gansevoort served as the official party hub. The lines for free back rubs and free haircuts wrapped halfway around the rooftop pool.
It seemed the perfect setting. Centrally located smack in the middle of the Gansevoort Market Historic District, right across Ninth Avenue from the pioneering neighborhood restaurant Pastis, the modish 14-story lodge, with its steely facade and clubby purple lights, has stood since 2004 as a glaring beacon of the ever-gentrifying area.
Perhaps no place better symbolizes what the modern meat market has become. In standoffs with the community over noise and offensive billboards, the Hotel Gansevoort has clearly established itself as that loud obnoxious neighbor with fashionable aims yet questionable tastes.
But, nowadays, looking out on the area from the hotel rooftop, you can’t help but notice the much bigger, badder building looming ominously on the horizon and wonder if the entire neighborhood might be moving right out from underneath it.
“The meatpacking district is about to shift 500 feet to the west,” predicted Richard Born, the Hotel Gansevoort’s landlord.
Mr. Born was talking about the forthcoming arrival of the Standard New York, hotelier André Balazs’ ambitious 18-story, 337-room lodge, erected on pillars over the elevated High Line park at the corner of Washington and West 13th Street, less than two blocks away.
Standing four stories taller and with nearly double the room capacity as the Hotel Gansevoort, with a beer garden, a pool and two restaurants, the hugely hyped Standard threatens to depose its barely four-year-old neighbor as the area’s trendiest hub.
“I think it’s going to be ground zero of the meatpacking district,” Mr. Born said of the new hotel, which is scheduled to open up to 150 guests rooms later this month, with the goal of becoming fully operational by spring.
“There’s no way in the world it’s not going to be hugely successful,” added Mr. Born, who comes from a rather unique perspective on the area’s changing hotel landscape. In addition to owning the Hotel Gansevoort property, which he leases to developer and operator Michael Achenbaum, Mr. Born is also a partner with Standard builder Mr. Balazs in the popular Mercer hotel in Soho. He further co-owns and co-operates two smaller inns, the Maritime and the Jane, located a few blocks north and a few blocks south, respectively, from the two rival hotel towers.
ONLY A YEAR AGO, the combined synergy of four stylish hotels located in such close proximity would seem entirely justified. Demand for hotel rooms in Manhattan had never been higher, with nightly rates and occupancy levels reaching record levels. Now, amid receding numbers of tourists and business travelers and otherwise widespread economic chaos, it’s beginning to resemble a glut.
Flanked on either side by less expensive accommodations and priced more in line with the larger, luxurious newcomer, the Hotel Gansevoort, with nightly rates this week ranging from $325 to $725, is perhaps the most vulnerable of the group.
“When business is great, you could withstand a little bit of competition,” said Mr. Born, who noted that the Hotel Gansevoort and Maritime had mutually thrived for years despite opening within a year of each other. “The market was rising the whole time,” he said. “Everything was absorbed. Nobody felt the effects. We didn’t feel them. They didn’t feel us. Right now, it’s working the other way. Dropping 300-and-some-odd rooms into the market is not going to be helpful to anybody.
“It will be the attraction,” Mr. Born said of the new Standard, “and there will be fewer customers to go around. I think the Gansevoort is going to be the hotel most affected by it.”
Not everyone in the neighborhood agrees with Mr. Born’s Gansevoort-Standard death-match scenario, particularly the Gansevoort’s proprietor, Mr. Achenbaum. “We don’t see the Standard as directly competitive with the Hotel Gansevoort,” he wrote in an email. “The Standard is known for a lower price point with more limited services, while the Hotel Gansevoort serves the luxury market. I am confident the Standard will be incrediby successful as the Hotel Gansevoort has run at such high occupancylevels and there is more than enough business for everybody.”
David Rabin, president of the Meatpacking District Initiative, agreed. “I don’t see it as a Gansevoort killer.”
A self-described “rising-tides-lift-all-boats kind of guy,” Mr. Rabin, the founder of the seminal local club Lotus, which is now closed, stands to benefit greatly from the Standard’s highly anticipated opening. His 85-seat Mexican eatery Los Dados is just down Washington Street from the new hotel.
“I think even people who aren’t going to stay there are going to come to check it out, have a drink there or go to an event there, and then they’re going to spread out through the neighborhood and they’re going to eat their meals somewhere else and they’re going to shop on their way out,” Mr. Rabin said.
It nonetheless could present a formidable challenge for the Hotel Gansevoort, he added.
“André is a master at style and marketing,” Mr. Rabin said of the Standard developer, Mr. Balazs. “Everyone could take lessons from André. He has a huge public persona and a huge network of contacts in the fashion, media and arts worlds. He’s just unbelievably well known and well liked. He’s just hard to compete with. But, you still have an area that has 40 restaurants and bars, as well as 75 high-end retailers. So people want to stay in the area. I think the Gansevoort holds its own. Yes, I think there are people who always want to go to whatever is brand new. But the Gansevoort is still a great location.”
Even detractors of both properties assert that the Hotel Gansevoort won’t be so easily supplanted as the new neighborhood status symbol.
Take Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, who has railed against both the Hotel Gansevoort for its offensive billboards, which remain despite some slight alterations, and the Standard for its grandiose scale and the lack of public input that went into its planning.
“I would certainly say that the Hotel Gansevoort sort of embodied everything bad about the new meatpacking district,” said Mr. Berman, citing the fights with neighbors and “hideous architecture” in particular. “Whether the Standard is going to overtake them in that regard, we’ll have to wait and see.”
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