new york stories, part 1.

another gilded room in the newly renovated gramercy park hotel.

ah, the gramercy park hotel. it’s up there with the chelsea hotel as a fabulous manhattan landmark, having hosted many luminaries and important meetings. it’s in my old neighborhood; I guess an estate agent would have claimed my old apartment at 19th and Second as being “gramercy east.” rebecca braverman and I decided it should be called “pig-stuy” (there is a police academy just around the corner so the boring residential block is overrun most days with young cadets eating the overly greasy fare at the 24-hour bloominghouse deli…) oh, sorry, I’ve digressed. here are my ruminations on the grand old hotel.
1. back in 1997 a couple of bands called belle & sebastian and the pastels stayed at the gramercy park. the former were in new york doing a tv taping that never aired and their first two shows ever in the united states, which were at the angel orensanz foundation center for the arts, a barely renovated former synagogue on the lower east side. despite their position in the glasgow music scene hierarchy, the pastels were opening up for the upstart B&S. after the shows on one night or the other, a big mob of indie nerds headed back to the gramercy park hotel for a nightcap. not only was the place not open anywhere near late enough to satisfy the wee mob, but the manager of the bar failed to realize what he was doing when stuart murdoch sat down at the piano and started to play something and the manager forbade it. I realized at that moment new york was not the city it should have been.
2. none of the indie nerds had any major complaints about their hotel rooms as far as I know. over the years I recommended to friends and family the gramercy park hotel — even my parents stayed there and were fine with it.
3. in 2004, while living in london I was sent to new york on business. I was working for an art magazine and they wanted me to go to the armory art fair. I could have stayed with friends but figured a hotel would be a legit expense, and while I would have preferred the gansevoort or the maritime, I ended up staying at the gramercy park hotel — because it was cheap and they had a room available. a room so revolting: it had linens that looked as though they’d been pulled from a dumpster behind the old folks home; it had a radiator so hot it could not be turned off or down and therefore one had to sleep with the window open and noisy trucks keeping one awake; so much cigarette smoke was being pumped into the room I was beginning to think there was an army of chainsmoking elves living in the closet. it was ghastly. then on my last day I went out in the morning to get a coffee. when I returned all my belongings were gone! the idiot maid “thought I had checked out” (even though this was well before check-out time) and decided to put my things in the lost and found. the nerve! I asked repeatedly that week for a better room and they treated me like garbage.
so what I am trying to say is, don’t romanticize the old place too much. the new gramercy park hotel is an example of the way things are going in new york — rich people own it, run it and live in it. the rooms range from $545 to $2600, so regular joes will not be able to stay here ever again. and while I generally advocate all things red velvet and gilded, I hate a new york that is only for the superrich.
anyway, this is all a roundabout way of saying: go see hotel gramercy park, a new film co-produced by our longtime friend kerthy fix, who is co-directing the magnetic fields doc with me. there are a number of screenings at the tribeca film festival in late april and early may.

3 Replies to “new york stories, part 1.”

  1. I liked that area; I remember the police cadets passing down the streets, like the marching constables seen from a sunny distance in chapter 8 of Ulysses.

    your account of the hotel going superrich sounds in line with what I would have imagined – but I didn’t ever know it was cheap! amazed that somewhere so central and famously-named could be affordable.

    over the years since first seeing the park, I have repeatedly come across literary anecdotes about the place, which have always struck me at the time – but which I either don’t now recall or are scarcely worthy of appearing on these gilded virtual pages.

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