Monday, January 18, 2010

The Plaza in Winter

It's now old news that the sale, a couple of years back, of the Plaza Hotel to an Israeli investor has turned out to be a disaster. Vanity Fair wrote about this in December 2008 and I did a small post about it then.

Now things have only gotten worse.

This classic hotel -- a New York institution immortalized in film and literature (including The Great Gatsby, the single greatest American novel of the 20th century), a place where manners and taste still mattered, the epitome of Old New York charm and all that is classy and cosmopolitan in this city and world -- the Plaza was turned into a bunch of badly constructed, ugly condos, most of which were sold at outrageous prices and that lead to immediate, collective buyer's remorse. Now these buyers are selling them at huge losses, embarrassed at having been snookered by the idea of "owning" some of the Plaza.

One of the "brilliant" ideas of the new owners was to open a shopping center in the basement, mostly a bunch of luxury retail stores. That's right: these new owners took one of the most beautiful buildings in New York City and turned it into ... a mall ...

And why would anyone shop at these luxury boutiques when the Plaza is just blocks away from Fifth Avenue, the single greatest shopping district in the entire world?

Stupid. Nowadays when I see the Plaza I feel a twinge of sadness. A great New York institution has been wrecked. Needless to say the real estate crash and economic crises have done their share of damage to the place as well.

Oh yes, as this article in today's Times indicates, the rich and famous still eat and drink at the Oak Room and the Oak Bar. The Grand Ballroom is booked almost every weekend. "'The Plaza is the Plaza'" someone is quoted as saying. But the Palm Court is closed, the Edwardian Room is closed, and everyone who goes to the Plaza these days agrees that it just isn't the same anymore. It's lost something, some degree of cache, and it's probably gone forever.

Along with the closings of Cafe des Artistes and Tavern on the Green -- as well the loss of things like rent stabilization, corner delis, neighborhood diners, and several subway lines (or so it is threatened) -- it feels like more and more of the city that so many of us grew up in and love is slipping away before our very eyes.

And even though places like the Plaza are for the rich, when it goes into decline, it makes all us New Yorkers just a little poorer.

1 comment:

Please keep it civil, intelligent, and expletive-free. Otherwise, opine away.