Rooftop Cocktail Lounge Opens at Wyndham Garden Chinatown

Destination: LES – Bracing For a Hotel Building Boom

Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the November issue of The Lo-Down’s print magazine.

Along upper Orchard Street one sparkling fall afternoon last month, young shoppers strolled in stilettos, popping in and out of the tiny, trendy boutiques that seem to multiply overnight lately. The perfume of fresh-cut flowers banked along a new corner bodega wafted down the block, overlaid with the pungent smell of roasted garlic from one of the pizza joints. Shopkeepers hawked leather goods on the sidewalk while workers hammered away inside Mi Casa Es Su Casa, yet another new restaurant opening soon. A woman with a suitcase asked directions to The Hotel on Rivington. A few blocks south, a group of tourists set out from the Tenement Museum for a walking tour of the way things used to be.

This eclectic mix — of the fashionable and the old-fashioned, the outgoing and the up-and-coming — forms a large part of the Lower East Side’s charm and draw. Combined with cheaper real estate prices than most of the rest of Manhattan and easy public transit access to  more tourist-centric parts of the city, the neighborhood’s character helps paint a portrait of a place that developers could envision new hotels succeeding.

Wyndham Garden Chinatown Poised to Open; 128 Hester Tenants Still in Limbo

The 19 story Wyndham garden Chinatown looms over an empty lot at 128 Hester Street.

According to Wyndham Hotels’ web site, its new 19-story, 106-room property is opening this summer at 93 Bowery.  The Wyndham Gardens Chinatown, the site proclaims, “starts with a structure similar to a giant shard of blue glass that cuts through the Manhattan skyline to create an unforgettable presence in the new Chinatown.”

The residents next door at 128 Hester Street, who fled their apartments three years ago on orders from the Fire Department, no doubt agree the hotel’s presence in the neighborhood has already been unforgettable.  Earlier this week, tenant advocacy organization Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) called a news conference to urge the hotel and its developers to finally compensate eight displaced families for the loss of their homes.   While acknowledging that Wyndham is only the operator (and has not been involved in a long-running legal dispute), AAFE Executive Director Chris Kui expressed hope that the hotel’s impending opening would hasten a resolution.