De Niro’s Hot New York Hotel


June 4 (Bloomberg) — “Cool shirt,” says the receptionist by way of a hello, noting my T-shirt with a print by artist Jean- Michel Basquiat. With a prime Tribeca location on Greenwich Street and a co-owner in Robert De Niro, New York City’s Greenwich Hotel is a study in measured cool. So, no geeks in bad suits behind the desk, nor Time-Square-seeking tourists in front of it.

My check-in man, Todd, has the friendly air of someone making a guest feel at home at his rich uncle’s chic country house.

“Feel free to make use of the drawing room, where you can get drinks or food from the restaurant,” he says. “Nobody will bother you since it’s for guests only.” As he takes me up to Room 408, he adds, “After you get settled, come back down and I’ll show you the pool.”

The chic country-house comparison is apt: Most floors, including those in the halls and guest rooms, are fat planks of hardwood. Doors and ceiling beams are reclaimed wood, and the lobby has 12-foot ceilings, diffuse lighting from tall windows and an eclectic collection of lived-in-looking chairs and couches.

With 88 guest rooms, the brick edifice was custom-built in a former parking lot. And while the opening coincided with the Tribeca Film Festival last April, the spa and penthouse are still under construction.

`Discount’ Prices

Current “preview” rates reflect this. The cheapest room is $475 and will rise to $625 at summer’s end; a corner suite is $1,400 and will go for $1,850. My deluxe room is $575. After an entree at the Italian restaurant Ago, drinks, breakfast room service and taxes, it comes out to $831 for the night.

Not exactly inexpensive unless you’re paying in sterling (as many guests are) and it’s not like Bobby brings up room service himself — or so I assume.

Still, among notable hotel openings in New York, it’s easily the most likeable. While the Greenwich’s public spaces lack blockbuster paintings by Warhol (as the Gramercy Park Hotel does) or a storied history (the reopened Plaza), it also lacks the pretension of the former and the unsteady service of the latter. (Service at the Plaza is sure to even out; Ian Schrager’s Gramercy was pretty much built on a foundation of hype.)

My room borders on simplicity, with an oversize red- patterned couch, a bed clad in clean white and nothing on the walls except for a bookshelf over the desk, stacked with books and oddities such as antique perfume bottles and a magnifying glass with a horn handle.

Room With a View

It’s comfy, airy and, like a pair of stiff blue jeans, will look even better with age. I don’t like to work in hotel rooms, yet I’m quite happy to plug in my computer as I look out the large windows (which open slightly) and down the street to the light dancing off the Hudson River.

The hotel plays the game of little extras brilliantly: It doesn’t charge for them. Wi-Fi Internet? Free. Coffee delivered to your room in the morning? Free. And, as Todd pointed out, everything in the mini-bar except alcohol is complementary, so “don’t be afraid to crack them open.” So as I try to work, I’m soon surrounded by Milky Way wrappers, a Cracker Jack box, mixed nuts and a container of coconut water (great hangover cure, incidentally).

Pulp Novel

Work goes even more poorly as I leaf through the books in the room, which include titles ranging from “Sexual/Textual Politics” to “The Wild Ones,” a 35-cent pulp novel printed in 1952 that touts itself as a “powerful novel of untamed emotions.”

Despairing of getting work done, I head downstairs to have a drink and wait for my girlfriend to get off of work.

We have a bite at Ago’s bar, which is loud, lively and makes for good people watching. And one of my favorite bars, the tiny Smith & Mills, is right around the corner on North Moore Street. I simply must stop by before retiring to the big king-sized bed.

Morning comes early (I should have saved the coconut water), as does my wakeup call. Then, a knock at the door. Still mostly asleep, I manage to pull some clothes on and discover — no, not the Raging Bull himself — but my free pot of coffee, delivered less than 30 seconds after the wakeup call. At 6:30 in the morn, that’s as close to happiness as I’m likely to get.

Greenwich Hotel, 377 Greenwich St., near North Moore Street; +1-212-941-8900;

The Bloomberg Questions

Best amenity: Access to spacious guest-only spaces such as drawing room, lobby and courtyard. Guests can bring in their own guests.

Service: Attentive and friendly, if informal. Special requests such as having the room prestocked with a certain kind of water were carried out.

Room service: Good. The kitchen accommodated an order for breakfast after 11 a.m., and food arrived within 15 minutes.

Bathroom: Every room is different; Room 408 has a gorgeous mosaic of blue-and-white Moroccan tile and a full bathtub.

Spa: Not yet finished; currently in-room services.

Price: $475 to $1,400.

(Jason H. Harper writes about travel and autos for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)