Day 29 – Bossert Hotel, 98 Montague Street, Brooklyn and
the Hotel St George, 100 Henry Street, Brooklyn.

Brooklyn ain’t Canberra (but it’s still pretty nice).

This week the New York Times wrote a piece on an OECD study that rated my hometown, Canberra, as the best place in the world to live. Based on certain criteria such as the likelihood of being shot (Mexico faired very well there), access to non-corruptible Government officials (Mexico faired poorly), and the proximity to abundant marsupials (Mexico faired poorly again), it made me reflect on one area where Canberra does very well (and New York not so much) which is cleanliness. New York is determined to hang onto its grunge factor, which is part of its charm many say.

All of this is just to say that this part of Brooklyn is nice. Not all of Brooklyn is nice (head to Coney Island for a shock – particularly if you’re silly enough to tell your kids, ‘it’ll be a bit like Disneyland’). But this area just south of where the Brooklyn Bridge touches down is well looked after with many streets lined with brownstones and a heap of funky shops. And here, are two historic hotels, neither of which is currently open.

The Bossert is under renovation and will soon reopen as a 5 Star hotel. It was a beautiful place in its day and by all accounts will be so again. As the crow flies, the Bossert is closer to Wall Street than Greenwich Village, but there’s a river in the way and that makes all the difference. Back in the 1800’s some predicted that Brooklyn would be where the New York of the future would be centred as, with Long Island stretching beyond it for 100 miles, it could expand forever. Manhattan, one cross-eyed prophet predicted, would eventually be filled up. The thing is, it turned out everyone wants to be on Manhattan. You need a Manhattan address. Manhattan keeps growing therefore, but up – not out. That’s where you’ll find everything that matters – the finance sector, the local Government, the cultural icons, the top restaurants and hotels, the famous shops. Everything else, I’ve found, tends to identify itself by its proximity to Manhattan. I don’t think you can understate the psychological effect of Manhattan’s physical nature as an island.

I worked in a café opposite the Bossert, sitting on the street in the wind, then walked north to the Hotel St George. Incredibly, it was at one point the largest hotel in New York. It took up an entire block and boasted the largest indoor salt-water pool in America. Who builds New York’s largest hotel in Brooklyn, you’d have to ask. It is so vast it would have to offer very low prices in order to even remotely fill its rooms. It sits right on top of a subway and you’re at Wall Street in two stops, but Manhattan has plenty of cheap hotels too. It’s no surprise The St George is no longer a hotel and is used mainly for student accommodation. I worked across the street in a tres funky café called Vineapple (on Pineapple street, believe it or not) which had the highest concentration of MacBooks I’d seen outside the Upper West Side.

I wish the Bossert well when it reopens, it will certainly be the hotel jewel in the crown in this area. It’s not that far from Manhattan either. But there’s a river in the way.

Today’s word count: 2537 (pretty poor for 4 hours IMO)

Word count to date: 71,942

  • Closest cafe to the Bossert I could find.

  • The Bossert – a while ago.

  • The Bossert on the day I visited.

  • View from the Bossert towards Manhattan (a while ago).

  • The Hotel St George – at least one corner of it.

  • Another corner of the Hotel St George.

  • The Hotel St George in its glory days taking up an entire block of Brooklyn.

  • St George hotel pool – once the largest indoor salt water pool in the US. Most luxurious in the world?? Hmmm.