Tuesday, May 15, 2012

When is a Hotel Really a Hotel?

In 1997, I moved to New York, fresh out of college. For the first 2 years I lived here, I lived in Brooklyn Heights.

I didn't know many people back then. I lived first with a family friend whose grown sons had moved out, then with two roommates on the north end of Brooklyn Heights that I didn't socialize much with. I worked a lot of hours at my unpaid internship at a professional sports league office, and when I was done, I had no money and no one to spend it with.

So my first few months in New York, when I wasn't at a game, I spent my free time roaming the city, starting with my adopted neighborhood Brooklyn Heights. I wandered up and down the promenade and Henry Street where I lived. And I wandered up and down Montague Street where most of the shops were and still are. It may have seemed a lonely existence (and it was sometimes) but it was good for me, learning the streets of my new city and the buildings that lined them.

As Montague drew closer to the Promenade (a route I often took for the sheer sightliness) I came to know a large marble-columned edifice with arched porticoes, a building that stood far above its closest neighbors. As I recall, it had an awning, and the awning was embossed "Bossert Hotel". I never saw doormen there, or anyone going in or coming out, really. But it looked like a nice building. I imagined it was one of those old-time hotels with small rooms appointed in antiques.

So when my dad & stepmother said they were coming for a visit, I looked the number to the Bossert Hotel up in the phone book (remember when those were useful?) and called. A nice-sounding man answered the phone with the building's name.

"Hi, I'd like to if there are rooms available," I told him.


"My father's coming to town and I'm trying to find him a place to stay," I repeated. "Do you have rooms available for the Friday after next?"

"Umm, this isn't that kind of hotel," the nice man said.

"What kind of hotel is it?" I asked, envisioning some kind of extended stay requirement.

"This is a residence for Jehovah's Witnesses. We don't take paying guests."

"Oh."  I was really disappointed, not just because I wanted my father and stepmother to stay near my home, but because I really wanted to see the inside of the building. But Dad came and stayed in Manhattan, and I kept wandering past the Bossert Hotel, wondering what it was like in there, trying to catch a glimpse through windows positioned to reflect the sunlight back out. Eventually I moved out of Brooklyn Heights. To this day I never have seen the inside of the Bossert Hotel.

But that may be about to change. Apparently the Watchtower Society has put the building on the market and it's in contract now. According to this Brownstoner post, plans have now been filed to make the building back into a real hotel.  New York certainly needs the hotel rooms.  I am really looking forward to it, though, because I love to see beautiful buildings, inside and out. Here's hoping that the developers give it an inside (or preserve its inside) that matches the beauty of the outside I have so marveled at all these years.

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