Manhattan’s Lower East Side has always been known for its gritty edge. This is the place where immigrants, arriving from Ellis Island and typically holed up in a tenement apartment, had their first view of New York, and indeed of their version of the ‘Great American Dream’. As a consequence, there is still a strong presence felt of a wide variety of different communities and cultures – from Jewish to Italian. In fact, at the crossroads with China Town, Little Italy and SoHo, you still feel as if you are in the heart of the city’s infamous melting pot which makes this city so diverse and exhilarating.
Within the edgy corners of any city, there’s always an explosion of creativity – and this quarter of Manhattan is no exception. From cool streetwear boutiques to the foodie hub that is Essex Market, (it first opened in 1940s but was given a revamp in 2019); alternative bookstores to typical Jewish delis, Lower East Side – or LES, as it is known – feels alive.
Harnessing this energy – and serving up a dollop of its own – is the new Moxy Lower East Side, found on Bowery, which opened at the end of 2022. The brand – part of Marriott Bonvoy – has a youthful spirit, which seems to dance around you as you arrive – with its neon signage, self-check-in pods and relaxed lobby-lounge-bar area. It may be pegged as an affordable offshoot of Marriott, but do not confuse that with meaning ‘cheap’, for this is anything but. Moxy, as a brand, despite its welcome accessible prices, ramps up its offering in a myriad of ways, giving guests so much more than they bargained for (in a very good way).
‘This is Where the Magic Happens’, says one of the hotel’s glowing signs, as you head towards the lifts, where quirky mask sculptures also line the walls. And, it’s true, there is a kind of whimsical feel about the hotel’s concept (turns out that a nod towards eccentric design is a Moxy signature). Interior designers Michaelis Boyd and the Rockwell Group say they took inspiration from the Bowery’s history as a hub of entertainment, from the Vauxhall Gardens and German Winter Garden of the 1800s to the vaudeville theaters and burlesque houses of last century — while channelling the neighbourhood’s present-day DNA.
The Fix, adjoining the lobby, is an exuberant celebration of this – from the six-foot bear with a hula-hoop to the 3D-printed pinup girls dangling from the chandeliers. The space is one where you can grab breakfast at Café d’Avignon, an outpost one of New York’s best bakeries – the freshly baked pastries are divine – or hang-out at the bar (it is finished in fluted glass and brushed brass, with a harlequin-patterned floor beneath, evoking the Art Deco stylings of the area’s old theaters). The playful vibe continues with a shuffleboard game and marble-topped tables with brass tic tac toe inserts.
Bedrooms are just as colourful, with terrazzo floors, hunter green walls and tan leather headboards. Showers have bold subway tiles and vibrant Art Deco-style screens, with a striking circle design. Rooms also have lots of urban design features, to maximise space, that Moxy has become known for. There’s a clever peg storage system, for instance, which integrates hanging space with a mirror, TV and folding desk, and additional storage can be found under the bed. Custom pouffés, lava stone sinks and a Hollywood-style mirror with bare bulbs bring tons of texture and a retro feel to the aesthetic.
The hotel seems to run on the fun-factor and there are lots of areas for guests to seek out entertainment, including its own underground club, Loosie’s. For drinks, on the ground floor, there’s the Silver Lining Piano Lounge – an ‘after hours’ destination designed with shades of blue, black, and gold, and flashes of silver. The design was inspired in part by Andy Warhol’s Silver Factory, a Downtown loft that the legendary artist transformed into an immersive sculpture with silver paint, aluminum foil, and broken mirror. Chairs are upholstered in blue colour-blocked velvet, embellished with hand-painted motifs, while velvet drapes and a custom light fixture by New York artist Erin Lorek brings a magical, nocturnal feel.
You can’t come to New York and not find a new view, and here – at the rooftop Highlight Room – you can see all the way north to the Empire State Building and south to the Freedom Tower. The ‘garden in the sky’ sees hanging plants, candelabra-like chandeliers and premium materials — plaster, brass, velvet upholstery, caramel drapery, terrazzo tiles — bring a dose of playful luxury. Just the place to savour a Golden Hour Spritz to watch the sun go down. It is one of the many curated cocktails on offer and blends champagne, Chambord, peach tea and gold leaf for an elegant drink to suit the surroundings.
One of the highlights at Moxy Lower East Side is undoubtedly its signature Japanese restaurant Sake No Hana. As you descend down a dramatic curved staircase, vintage kimonos are hung as artwork, while in the subterraean dining room, a canopy of lanterns, inspired by Japanese pottery, hang from a mirrored ceiling, while latticed wood and embroidered fabric panels, with cherry blossoms and fantastical birds, cover the walls. It’s a buzzy, convivial space, serving izakaya dishes designed to be shared and given a New York twist. Choose from teppanyaki dishes, yakitori skewers, Wagyu beef, and sushi rolls, as well a curated list of sakes. Start with the Tsukiju Market Sweet Potato Crisps while you ponder the menu – the ultimate delicious snacks. Highlights include the Spicy Tuna Tartare, the Crispy Tokyo Gyoza and the Kelp-Wrapped Tai Snapper. But, in truth, you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu which is loaded with dishes that are exemplary Japanese soul food.
The hotel was developed by Lightstone, which also developed the other three Moxy properties in NYC – the award-winning Moxy Times Square, Moxy Chelsea and Moxy East Village. Seemingly on a roll, earlier this year, the real estate company also opened its fifth Moxy property – Moxy Brooklyn Williamsburg.
This new hotel also sets the bar high with design from Lightstone Design Studio in collaboration with BASILE Studio and Stonehill Taylor. Its look references the past while remaining firmly contemporary — an approach aligned with Williamsburg’s retro-loving aesthetic. Moxy Brooklyn Williamsburg’s industrial-inspired architecture melds with the Williamsburg cityscape, from the area’s converted 19th-century warehouses and nearby Domino Park to the Williamsburg Bridge just a stone’s throw away.
Moxy Brooklyn Williamsburg also boasts a range of dining and drinking venues conceived by Bar Lab, the creative force behind Broken Shaker, including LilliStar, an indoor/outdoor rooftop bar whose terrace has breathtaking views of the Williamsburg Bridge and the Manhattan skyline.
Back at Moxy Lower East Side, you’ll find yourself in the beating heart of New York – there’s so much to explore in the area. And the hotel feels like a welcoming beacon to return to after a day roaming the city. Standing at the corner of Bowery and Broome, architects Stonehill Taylor, designed the 16-story tower with its ‘wedding cake’ style structure. It thoughtfully references the history of the area, the first six stories conforming to the heights of the area’s traditional mercantile and tenement buildings; while the upper floors are dramatically set back and thus only visible from afar.
Up on the rooftop, looking out over the iconic city skyline, a stay with Moxy feels like you’ve discovered – and are staying in – a cool ‘in-club’. A phrase comes to mind to sum it up: if you know, you know.