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Vicinity: The Hotel Culture of the Upper East Side


No neighborhood hosts as many world-renowned and welcoming hotels as the Upper East Side. This enclave’s hospitality outlets aren’t just for tourists—they’re part of a cultural and culinary constellation that embraces the local community and lends unfathomable value. Within these venues, people of all ages, from all over the world (and many from down the street), mingle, converse and embrace the connection that comes from interacting with one another.

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“The hotel lounge is a great place to meet,” explains Francois-Olivier Luiggi, the General Manager of The Pierre, A Taj Hotel, “because you get to be in an extraordinary environment and enjoy the simplest things, from a cup of tea to casual conversation.” The Pierre is an Upper East Side icon that’s been drawing new crowds for 92 years. “The Pierre was built as a luxury hotel. It has ten-foot ceilings and big corridors and numerous entertainment spaces. It was designed to be the grandest of the grand from the get-go and its original DNA was to entertain.” After nearly a century and innumerable nights of hospitality, The Pierre has forged many connections to passers-through and offered them many fond memories.

By refreshing its food and beverage program, and programming live events, The Pierre stays hyper-relevant. “We’re trying to balance the expectation around our history and pedigree with relevance to people today. We want to offer something truly unique but also something you’d expect on the Upper East Side,” Luiggi says. They also welcome fashion, film and music industry employees who work nearby. “We have a great pool of people already around us. We provide a place to go right after work,” Luiggi adds.

The interplay between Upper East Side locals and international visitors is one of the most influential exchanges. Tony Mosca, Director of Food and Beverage at The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel says, “with Bemelmans Bar and Dowling’s at The Carlyle and Café Carlyle, guests are able to connect with the residents of the Upper East Side. You get a real sense of New York City when you come to our establishment. We have a lot of locals who support us. That mixed with those coming from all over the world, you get a sense of what the Upper East Side is today.”

Mosca also notes that diversity is abundant. “The hotel is generational. You’ve got children, parents and grandparents always passing through,” he says. “Likewise, so many people from the neighborhood continue to come generation after generation. It’s a harmonious combination of old and new.” This is no small feat and it’s been achieved through a mentality employed by The Carlyle team. “We bring back the glamour and the charm of the 1930s and ‘40s but embrace the modernization that people want today,” Mosca says. “You need to nurture it so that it is there for future generations. Every decision we make is about how the legacy continues.”

“Bemelmans has been in the community for so long that it’s become part of the fabric of society and everyone wants to be a part of it,” Mosca adds of the beloved bar, which has been a hotspot since 1947. “Everyone wants to be able to feel the legacy and the history. The new generation coming in is looking for a sense of connection not only to the past but to each other.”

It’s that same sense of community that has drawn Fasano Fifth Avenue, a members-only hotel and private club, to the Upper East Side. A part of the prestigious Brazilian hotel group owned by hotelier and restaurateur Gero Fasano, this new destination is the epitome of pristine modern design. “We wanted it to be surrounded by the best of New York and the Upper East Side is home to some of the most historic cultural institutions and most renowned New Yorkers in history,” says Andrea Natal, the General Manager of Fasano Fifth Avenue. As such, its flagship North American property “is close to some of the city’s top shopping delights and dining experiences on the Upper East Side. It’s everything you’d want in a neighborhood.”

As for what Fasano Fifth Avenue imparts upon the locale, “Members enjoy the privileges of a full-service hotel on a very private and tranquil location. They gain reservation access to the property’s beautifully appointed clubhouse suites and duplex apartments, in addition to on-site amenities such as Fasano Caffè—a premier destination for lunch, dinner and private events. The property also features a boutique gym, sauna and outdoor terraces. Beyond the property, membership grants access to an array of exclusive experiences, including social and cultural events, private shopping, auctions, concierge services and more. Other perks include preferential reservations at Fasano Restaurant New York, in Midtown, and other Fasano properties around the world,” Natal says.

Perhaps no one explains the interconnectedness of hotel culture and the Upper East Side identity quite like Andrew Jeffries, the Director of Sales and Marketing at The Mark. “To me, the Upper East Side has always been the best neighborhood in New York City. While mostly residential, you have the most important cultural institutions in the city, if not the world, right outside your door,” he says. “Currently, the neighborhood is in the midst of a tremendous renaissance, with more restaurants like Caviar Kaspia, luxury retail like the Hermes store on 63rd, Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Townhouse on Madison between 77th and 78th and the new White Cube Gallery.”

Jeffries believes that “the majority of our guests in the restaurant live and/ or work on the Upper East Side. They come in for breakfasts, lunches and dinners multiple times per week. It is truly like their second home—or second dining room.” The Mark Restaurant by Jean-Georges is a microcosm for it all—it’s high-end but approachable and warm. In many ways, that’s the spirit of the Upper East Side itself.

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