The bed in my beautiful room at The James is a vast expanse of linen and Egyptian cotton by Fili D’Oro, who, according to their website, were founded in 1893 and pride themselves on delivering exclusive Italian workmanship, the finest Egyptian cotton and linen made from Flanders flax. Having experienced the feel of said sheets (ironed by someone who isn’t me! Yeay!) I can only nod in total agreement. The snack tray atop the very well appointed fridge flaunts an oh-so-tempting mix of the lowbrow (good ole M&M’s and Snickers), upscale Dean & Deluca and heavenly Mast Brothers artisan chocolate bars. The cocktail tray is brimming with alcohol and features amongst others Hudson Four Grain Bourbon Whiskey and Hudson Baby Bourbon Whiskey. Try saying the latter after a few! There’s even condoms tastefully concealed in a silver zip lock box.
All this is just a tiny aspect of the unceasingly impeccable and utterly thoughtful service The James provides.
This hotel truly spoils you for anywhere else, resulting in my previous abode, the Tribeca Grand, being somewhat unfairly renamed the Flophouse. Poor old TG! Nothing wrong with it per se, but it didn’t have an ongoing snack table downstairs offering darling little pastries and coffee from cult coffee company La Colombe in the morning, fruit during the day, cheese and wine at 6 AND freshly baked, homemade cookies at 8 pm like The James. Did TG have a rooftop bar – Jimmy’s – and a splendid outdoor space surrounding a glass tiled pool, spectacular 360 degree views and a chance to admire the signature cut-away column, cantilevered concrete framework from inside while drinking delicious cocktails, basking in the hot afternoon sunshine? NOOOOO!
Artworks casually displayed for your contemplation such as these guys:
Or this amazing piece by a Missouri-based artist, Sarah Frost. A whole wall covered in re-used keyboard keys, known as her QWERTY installations.
And best of all – there are scores of the most fabulous books on art, fashion and architecture generously dotted around the hotel, beautiful and unusual books like The City Out My Window, 63 illustrated views on NYC by Matteo Pericoli, featuring a mix of folks describing the view from their window, people such as Mikhail Baryshnikov, David Byrne, Rosanne Cash, Nora Ephron, Ed Koch, Tom Wolfe, Philip Glass and many more.
My only complaint would be that The James makes it quite hard to summon up willpower to actually leave the building… I mean, why would you? But after having indulged in possibly the longest shower in history (and if it were up to me I’d still be there. Sensational doesn’t even cover it) I went to the High Line which I’ve wanted to experience ever since I watched Gary Hustwit’s thought-provoking film Urbanized, in which he explores how we can change cities to be more human-friendly and sustainable. New York’s High Line was built in the 1930’s as part of a massive public-private infrastructure project called the West Side Improvement. It lifted freight traffic 30 feet in the air, removing dangerous trains from the streets of Manhattan’s largest industrial district. However, no trains ran on the High Line after 1980. It then gradually fell into disrepair and was due to be demolished. In 1999 a community-based, non-profit group, Friends of the High Line, formed to save the historic structure. Friends of the High Line works in partnership with the City of New York to preserve and maintain the structure as an elevated public park. And a mixture of private philanthropists and businesses, such as Tiffany’s, have generously donated money as well.
A meandering pathway passes by old and new architecture in West Chelsea, between West 24th and West 25th Streets, looking South. Image © Iwan Baan 2011
Although it was busy with tourists and New Yorkers out for a stroll, it felt very pleasant, never crowded. There’s something very exciting about moving about whilst elevated above the commerce and the cars. To walk in the midst of a city for an hour without seeing one single advertisement or storefront is delightful and rare.
There’s such modernity to the High Line, you feel as if you’re in an architectural model or in Le Corbusier’s Ville Radieuse made reality. Being so high up you see details of buildings you wouldn’t normally be privy too. Obviously perfect for a good old nose too…
The High Line itself has been re-done with a real sense for the variety of plants and the materials and surface treatments are incredible. The old tracks are still visible, although at times semi-submerged in soil.
There are chunky recliners everywhere made from stacked reclaimed wood and hovering above the historic rail on the east side of the High Line at West 26th Street the so-called Viewing Spur, a glass fronted amphitheatre which allows you to sit on bleachers and just gaze down on 10th Avenue and the busy streets of Chelsea. Its frame is meant to recall the billboards that were once attached to the High Line. Thanks to the glass front, an amusing scenario is played out when you look back at it from the street; it literally look as if it is a movie being played or a live art installation of people sitting down and moving around on the bleachers and stairs.
Sundeck Water Feature and Preserve, between West 14th Street and West 15th Street, looking South. Image © Iwan Baan 2009
The walk takes about an hour and ends in a wasteland of dried grass and barren soil. Although sad to see, it drives home what an amazing effort the previous part is. They are currently fundraising for the last ½ mile, which will cost $80 million to finish. Apparently Diane von Furstenberg has already pledged a large part of this sum so there’s hope that it will be finalized soon. The Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation already made The Sundeck happen, just north of 14th Street, which is the perfect place to watch the sun set over the Hudson River.
The High Line as it once was. A Railroad Artifact, 30th Street, May 2000
Image © Joel Sternfeld 2000
Words by Anna Bang
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