There was a time when this part of the Bowery was sketchy, to say the least. But then, the whole of the Lower East Side was. It was also infinitely more fun than it is today, with its plaid-shirt blow-ins out on the lash on a Friday night in search of the long gone CBGB’s edge. This is the last place we’d want to go out of a weekend. But it’s still a great location from which to walk to everything you may want to get Downtown – the East Village is just up there, and the FiDi is just down there. And on closer inspection, not everything has turned into a café offering $6 iced lattes hole or lacklustre faux artisanal gelatiera. The building next to the citizenM New York Bowery hotel remains a homeless shelter, and its clients didn’t get the memo that their stretch of the sidewalk was now a place for groovy urban art and European tourists heading for the unfathomable queue outside Supreme. And that’s as it should be. They were here first, you weren’t. And you might be looking for the spirit of punk on your LES safari, but when that was in evidence, so was omnipresent gunplay. But fun and urban jeopardy often go hand in hand. As the stencil graffiti reminds us on every block: “the rich ruined New York”. And, at the citizenM on the Bowery, you can visit the MoSA – the Museum of Street Art; essentially a stairwell that’s been adorned with graffiti from artists who used to create work at 5Pointz, the old Neptune Meter Factory in Long Island City that was a haven for aerosol artists before it was demolished to make way for … yes … luxury apartments.
The Netherlands-based citizenM brand has created the default hotel of choice for a certain kind of traveller – one who doesn’t mind a small bedroom but demands a place to set up their laptop for the afternoon. It can feel overly styled at times, mostly in the use of puns and an attempt to inject unnecessary personality into everything from shower gel to do not disturb signs. But, fundamentally, it’s quite brilliant. It’s reliable wherever you are in the world, like the yaki soba at a Wagamama. The beds are as comfortable as the Four Seasons, the layout of the small rooms is smart and accommodates more luggage than we generally bring to town (and we bring a fair amount), and everything is immaculate. Artwork in the rooms comes from NEW INC, the incubator project overseen by the neighbouring New Museum. The public areas look sensational.
You can lounge in bed and watch free movies, or drink in the rooftop bar, cloudM. Rooftop bars with views are, of course, at a premium downtown, and this one – with classic Vitra furniture – is pretty decent. The whole process of staying at the citizenM New York Bowery Hotel smooth – if you want breakfast or a late check out, you pay in advance, so there’s no check-out per se. You just walk out.
It’s a great place to shelter from the killer humidity, tropical rainstorms or skin-stripping cold winds that make New York such a delight to spend time in
While we like that aforementioned rooftop bar, the thing about citizenM on the Bowery we like best is the basement canteen area, where we have always managed to get a table to work for the afternoon. There are work stations cleverly engineered into tiered levels that run up to street level, and the Wi-fi is free and fast. This is a much better to place than any of the local coffee shops, or the dark and somniferous nearby Ludlow House, and infinitely better more sensible than paying through the nose for a (doomed, surely?) WeWork space. We didn’t realise until recently that you’re supposed to pay $15 to work at citizenM if you aren’t a resident, and we have to admit we haven’t been paying it. But, erm … we would – it’s comfortable, quiet, and there’s free printing. It’s a great place to shelter from the killer humidity, tropical rainstorms or skin-stripping cold winds that make New York such a delight to spend time in. While outside, the patrons of the shelter next door spill out into the citizenM plaza, offering an unintentional juxtaposition of the romanticised idea of Downtown New York – with a huge red and black mural by Meres One and assorted artworks by Lad Pink, Rubin 415 and Don Rmx – and the reality of city life. Manhattan hasn’t entirely been Disneyfied just yet. C
citizenM New York Bowery Hotel, 189 Bowery, New York, NY 10002 U.S.
+1 212 372 7274; citizen.com