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Stay, Eat and Play in Brooklyn


Photo by James Baigrie.

Rising out of Brooklyn Bridge Park along the East River, the new 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge seems to tell a story. “It’s a cheeky nod to DUMBO’s industrial history in shipping and warehousing,” says Waad El Hadidy, the University of Cambridge- and Parsons School of Design-educated design director for Starwood Capital, which owns the property. El Hadidy worked with 11 Brooklyn artists to create the hotel’s various sculptures and murals and with many other New York-based artists to create the indoor hammocks, glassware fashioned from recycled wine bottles, et cetera. Here the guest rooms resemble fancy 1950s locker rooms: leather soccer ball-esque ottomans made by local artisan Moses Nadel; gray hoodie sweatshirt robes; wire-mesh headboards wrapped in light-brown leather. And the hotel is very into wood—most of it reclaimed.

“The benches on each floor in front of the elevators are heart pine beams from Williamsburg’s defunct Domino Sugar factory,” El Hadidy says. The rooftop bar boasts what must surely be the finest view of Lower Manhattan’s skyline as it’s perennially packed with chenin blanc-sipping locals and tourists trying to cajole the oft-Converse-clad staff into taking their photo.

This past May, NYC Ferry debuted, launching new routes along with a fresh fleet of ferryboats that kind of look like yachts (from the outside at least). So take the scenic East River route from DUMBO. It’s one stop to South Williamsburg, where you’ll find tatted hipsters sharing plates of chicken drumsticks with pickled pepper aioli and jamming out to ’90s hip-hop playlists (read: Biggie Smalls) at Sunday in Brooklyn. Veteran chef Jaime Young says he knew what Williamsburg was missing. “We wanted to take the neighborhood restaurant to the next level using traditional flavor memories in a creative, elegant way,” he says. Helping Sunday in Brooklyn stand out aesthetically is its Edisonlike string lighting in the second-floor garden terrace.

Brooklyn is an exceptionally diverse borough. And although the Hasidic Jewish community has a majority stake of South Williamsburg’s demographic pie, you’ll hear snippets of Italian as you mosey up Berry Street. “We were the first European brand to open in North Williamsburg. When we came here five years ago, this area was totally different. Now the neighborhood has a Whole Foods and an Equinox,” says fourth-generation restaurateur Francesco Panella, who expanded his family’s establishment Rome restaurant Antica Pesa here. A tall, bearded Italian guy mixes classic negronis at the bar across from a cosy fireplace nook complete with a tufted leather couch, vintage issues of Italian Playboy and signed photos of celebs who are partial to the restaurant’s Gita Fuori Porta—a selection of Italian meats and cheeses served in an adorable, plate-sized suitcase. Insider tip: Evenings get going a bit later here than they do in Manhattan, so make your dinner reservations for 8:30.

Where to Shop

“I’m not J.Crew,” says Walter, a rugged, overall-clad vintage clothes maven with legions of local devotees. His nearly 3-year-old shop Wonders of Walter at 135 Berry Street appears to be a repurposed two-car garage. D.A.R.E. sweatshirts and Starter jackets abound. Then there’s Double RL, Ralph Lauren’s offbeat outpost for high-end vintage and vintage-inspired Americana menswear that’s housed in an 1890s print shop. Think cowboy boots, coveralls, Navajo-looking silver bracelets and indigo-colored sweaters. Then peruse Catbird’s dainty, slightly whimsical jewelry at its flagship shop.

Where to Take the Kids

Jane Walentas paid $365,000 for a 1920s carousel in 1984. She then spent 27 years refurbishing her treasure in a Brooklyn studio—scraping down layers of paint, repairing the mechanical and electrical systems and mending broken legs. Enclosed in thick acrylic panels, Jane’s Carousel spins all winter long. On weekends, neighborhood kids pull their parents through Sweethausblue door for Double Lemon cupcakes and handfuls of old-school candy displayed in tidy glass jars.  

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