On the Waterfront: 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge

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By Laura Mauk / Published by Laura Mauk
When you’re staying at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge in Brooklyn Bridge Park, it’s difficult to leave your room. That’s because the building’s connection to the New York landscape lets you feel like you’re outside even when you’re not.

The 194-room hotel is perched on a narrow swathe of land between Furman Street and the park on Pier 1 and features views of the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty. It appears almost as the prow of a ship, clad with steel and glass that reflects blue sky and fluffy white clouds and references the industrial history of the area (a group of warehouses previously stood on the lot); the bottom portion of the building also displays large longleaf yellow pine columns and groupings of granite boulders scattered around its perimeter. "We recycled the wood from the warehouses that were torn down," says Jonathan Marvel, of Marvel Architects, who devised the building design. "The granite is Quincy granite, the same granite used on the Brooklyn Bridge. It ties the building to the bridge and the wood connects it to the historic warehouse aesthetic of the area."  

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Inside, the hotel’s lobby is marked by a massive living wall created by landscape architecture firm Harrison Green. Many of the furnishings for the space are made by Brooklyn artisans and were crafted using locally sourced materials. "There’s a large pine table made with reclaimed pine beams from the Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn," says designer Waad El Hadidy, of Starwood Capital Group, the company that developed the hotel with Toll Brothers City Living. "The art piece behind the reception desk is by Brooklyn artist Jarrod Beck. It’s made with rubber roof membrane he collected in Utica, New York, after a tornado destroyed homes there in 2014." Another artwork—comprised of 6,000 pounds of hammered and shaped obsidian rocks and hand-dyed, rust-colored rope—by Rachel Mica Weiss is situated near the bottom of the lobby’s main staircase. 

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The lobby and all of 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge’s interiors were designed by INC Architecture & Design in partnership with Starwood Capital Group. And for however beautiful the lobby is, the rooms are the place you don’t want to leave. In the case of our visit—a family of four spending three nights at the hotel—that’s saying something since we stayed in the Skyline 2 Beds room, which offers two double beds. After the first night, we wished we’d been able to upgrade to a suite: Two people in a double bed does not make for the best sleep, even if it’s on a hemp-blend mattress wrapped in organic cotton sheets. But we consoled ourselves by opening our massive sliding door, nestling into the built-in seating area that’s covered in nubby textiles and gazing out at the view of the Statue of Liberty. "Every room has a floor-to-ceiling sliding window that opens to that landscape and makes you feel like you’re on a balcony," Marvel says. 

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It’s hard to take your eyes and mind off the Statue of Liberty, considering the current political landscape, but there’s also a bird's-eye view of the park’s voluminous tree tops. We forced ourselves to leave the comfort of our room and wander in Brooklyn Bridge Park, where we discovered Anish Kapoor’s public art installation titled Descension. The artwork is a thing of great beauty and strength that took our minds right back to political chaos. But we kept walking until we found Jane’s Carousel and witnessed a diverse sea of beaming toddler faces going around and around on brilliant and fantastic animals—a hope-restoring site. 

The rooftop pool and bar lured us back to the hotel. We couldn’t wait to experience more mind-blowing views of the New York surround while laying poolside in the sun. It’s a perch that can’t be beat in terms of the eyeful you get, but the views are so epic they dwarf the already small three-feet-deep plunge pool that seemed to be there mostly for standing in while taking selfies. But our kids swam and splashed in the water while we ordered from the rooftop bar menu—a lobster roll, a hamburger, French fries with tarragon aioli, a Dark and Stormy and more than one glass of Quinn Vins de Pays des Maures Rose. 

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It wasn’t long before we found ourselves craving the comforts of our room again. The marble rain shower, corrugated leather headboards, a Triple Clear filtered water purification system, Fresnel glass light fixtures and a tiny indoor garden designed by Harrison Green were too lovely to stay away from for too long. We opted for a night in and were anxious to order room service and make the most of having privacy while being well connected to the landscape. But the restaurant wasn’t open yet, so room service wasn’t available. (We lamented the fact that there’s a room service menu you can’t order from on the room’s iPad, which also controls the room’s temperature and lighting.) Eventually, we made our way down to Neighbors, the café in the lobby that offers fresh, seasonal picnic fare, including a few offerings for kids, from Brooklyn purveyors, and placed a to-go order to bring back to our room. The large plate of raw vegetables and field greens drizzled with harissa vinaigrette and two whole grain flatbreads—one with skirt steak, black garlic spread, caramelized onions, gorgonzola and watercress, and another with prosciutto picante, grilled scallions and sun-dried tomatoes—that we ended up with were a welcome alternative to having to wait in line at Shake Shack or Juliana’s Pizza. 

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Knowing the hotel building uses wind power credits and operates a rainwater reclamation system that reduces storm water runoff into neighboring water streams (the water collected irrigates the park during the summer) made us feel that much better about our stay. And for once in our life, our entire family was adequately hydrated since our eight-year old would not stop filling the recycled green-glass carafe and glasses with water from a spout controlled by a metal wheel handle that proved maddeningly fun to crank over and over again. 

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While staying at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, you’re ever aware of the privileged perspective you’re getting (and that Brooklyn residents aren’t getting, unless they’ve purchased one of the units in Pierhouse, the adjacent condo building also developed by Starwood Capital Group, that disappointingly does not offer any low- or middle-income units for rent or for sale). The fact that funds from the hotel and Pierhouse help maintain the cost of Brooklyn Bridge Park, which is public, is the development’s saving grace. Because for as much as the buildings borrow from their waterfront park locale, they’re also giving back to it. 

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The East River waterfront and Brooklyn Bridge Park are indeed 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge’s best attributes. They’re the elements that drove almost every aspect of its design. "We didn’t want this hotel to be the next hipster spot," El Hadidy says. "We wanted it to be of the place that surrounds it; for it to look and feel like it has always belonged right here in Brooklyn. We wanted it to be of nature and as timeless as possible."  

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