New York hoteliers, Sean MacPherson, Ira Drukier, and Richard Born, are making their Lower East Side debut with a new 184-room hotel that evokes the rich history of a neighborhood whose charm marches on.
The Ludlow, within wafting distance of Katz's Deli on the corner and strumming distance of Ludlow Guitars next door, feels born on the Lower East Side. Elegant and comfortable, but with artful rough edges and personal quirks, the hotel conjures the area's vivid history, from the "Gangs of New York" era to Jewish immigration to the wild art and music of the '80s.
But it's not just about the past. The Ludlow is connected to today's Lower East Side, a constantly changing crossroads of culture, style, and cuisine that's once again Manhattan's most pulse-quickening neighborhood. Sidewalks connect live music venues with scuffed-up street art, and welcome the burgeoning fashion scene of both young and vintage designers who are inspired by the neighborhood's raw, urban roots. Mom-and-pop shops sit beside chic restaurants and boisterous bars where longtime patrons and first-generation New Yorkers flock for an insatiable taste of the Lower East Side.
The Ludlow's eagerly awaited restaurant has been the talk of food circles for months. Dirty French will be the first French restaurant from Major Food Group, the group whose white-hot eateries include Torrisi, Parm, Carbone, and ZZ's Clam Bar. Operating from breakfast til late, Dirty French will feature rebooted, provocative Gallic classics – and embody the "distinctly New York style and swagger" extolled by The New York Times. Major Food Group partners Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi, and Jeff Zalaznick will personally oversee the restaurant.
The Ludlow comes with its own New York story. MacPherson, Drukier, and Born rescued a derelict building that had been abandoned by its original developers after the financial crash. The Ludlow's solid brick façade and factory casement windows make it fit seamlessly onto its historic block.
For MacPherson, who first visited the Lower East Side in 1984, the Ludlow draws on his own experiences. "Along with layers of history, there was a grittiness and nervous energy," he says. "You had a sense something could break out any minute, whether it was street art or a riot. I'd come from LA, and there was nothing like it." Like the neighborhood itself, with its long heritage of welcoming newcomers, the Ludlow will make guests feel they belong here.
The trip starts at the Ludlow's red-brick entryway. Steel and glass doors open to oak paneled-walls and marble mosaic floors. A grand distressed-limestone fireplace dominates the lobby lounge – think Trustafarian meets Miss Havisham.
In an area long defined by its confines and tenements, The Ludlow will create an inviting public space on its ground floor. The lobby atrium harks back to the days when downtown lofts would house happening clubs or one-off parties with indescribable mixes of creative people. "Those spaces were magnets, and we're hoping this one will be," MacPherson says. "We'd like to function as a living room for the neighborhood."
Flooded with light, the ground-floor is cleverly designed with windows and glass walls to offer clear views from the Ludlow St. entrance straight through to the bluestone-paved back courtyard – itself a rare amenity anywhere in Manhattan.
Upstairs feels private and personal – like a New Yorker's downtown living space - with furniture and artisan touches hand-picked by MacPherson. Hardwood floors and handmade silk rugs complement artisan-crafted Moroccan pendant lamps and Indo-Portuguese style beds. "Tree-trunk" nightstands in petrified wood come from Brooklyn furniture temple Organic Modernism.
Between two plush upholstered chairs, a marble-topped bistro table in each room feels like a lucky find you might nab at one of Manhattan's antique flea markets. Supremely comfortable amenities include Bellino Fine Linens from Italy and new, exclusive bath products from Red Flower. Locally sourced mini-bar offerings from some of New York's favorite hometown purveyors will include thoughtfully selected healthful options. Huge flat-screen TVs complete the rooms.
Sharp-eyed guests will recognize plush bathrobes and "Persian rug" trompe-l'oeil bathmats from Maison Martin Margiela, the cult Paris fashion label renowned for witty, subversive takes on luxe clothing and accessories. Full bathrooms with rainshower heads come standard, many also offer windowed soaking tubs. All bathrooms boast black-and-white tilework and brass fixtures. Heavy wooden doors help muffle noise and add to a sense of place and history.
The Ludlow offers 184 guestrooms including 20 spectacular suites in nine configurations. Spaces will range from Full to Queen and King rooms, each with sweeping city views and many with a private terrace. The Ludlow Penthouse, with wraparound windows and 1,100-foot terrace, and "Skybox Loft" with designated sitting area, offer breathtaking vistas of New York's bridges and landmarks. The Williamsburg Bridge, in fact, is a quick walk from the Ludlow. Legendary smoked-fish emporium Russ & Daughters and knish haven Yonah Schimmel are steps away.
East-facing rooms also offer views of Tibor Kalman's famous "Askew" clock and the iconic "Lenin" statue outside Red Square, the striking modern apartment building around the corner on Avenue B.
Sean MacPherson and BD Hotels' other New York properties, each with a different experience of New York, include the Marlton, the Jane, the Bowery, and the Maritime.