For better or for worse, Times Square has endured as Manhattan's epicenter— both geographically and in the popular imagination. New Yorkers avoid it like the plague, the swarming masses and unidentifiable smells enough to push even the most hardened city-dweller over the edge.
But show up on a Friday night, as the crowds shuffle between the Irish pubs, chain restaurants, and Broadway theaters, and one thing becomes immediately clear: Times Square, for many travelers, is still New York City's star attraction.
Hospitality impresario Ian Schrager finds the neighborhood’s energy intoxicating — it’s one of the reasons he chose the then-seedy spot as the address of his iconic midtown Manhattan nightclub, Studio 54.
“When you mix diverse things and diverse people, that’s when the magic happens,” said the Brooklyn-born hotelier in an interview with Travel + Leisure.
Now Schrager has returned to his old stomping grounds with the opening of The Times Square Edition, a 452-room skyscraper that turns the notion of a Times Square hotel on its head, following in the footsteps of The Royalton, The Paramount, and Schrager’s other trailblazing midtown hotels.
But the neighborhood isn’t so much a source of inspiration as it is a stage for Schrager to show what’s possible when you bring elevated interiors, buzzy public spaces, and a hip “downtown” crowd under one roof — even in the most hated part of town.
“Nothing gets me more excited than upsetting the status quo,” said Schrager. “Instead of appealing the lowest common denominator, I want to appeal to high and low brow, because that mix is always combustible.”
From the moment you step into Edition's 10th floor lobby, the frenetic streets below are but a distant memory, replaced with an ethereal vision of lush vertical gardens flanked by ivory curtains and juxtaposed against dark, chevron-patterned oak floors. The adjoining all-black sitting area oozes sex appeal (horsehair chairs, a black steel fireplace, Christian Liaigre floor lamps) while the 1,200-square-foot lobby bar is an all-white sanctuary of calm. Even the guests look the part, dressed smartly in street wear and sipping cocktails around the white onyx bar.
This being a Schrager production, the focus is as much on nightlife as it is on the supremely stylish accommodations. But where the interiors are elegant and restrained, the restaurants and bars verge on theatrical.
“In design, less is more, but in experiential things, more is more,” said Schrager, explaining his penchant for entertainment spaces where you can “cut the electricity with a knife.”
Inside, you'll find the Paradise Club, a modern-day cabaret that channels the glitz and glamour of Studio 54 with its expansive dance floor and star wattage (Diana Ross, Nile Rogers, and Lauren Hill have already performed). Then there's retro-inflected Terrace Bar, which drips in old school glamour— crystal objets, red velvet seats, a gleaming bar made from Saint Laurent marble.
On opening night, Kendall Jenner, Hailey Baldwin, and Joan Smalls were but a few of the famous faces that could be spotted amid the low lights and abundant greenery in the Terrace Restaurant, packed to the gills with velvet sofas, antique backlit mirrors, and over 300 potted tropical palm trees.
Despite the hype, Schrager admits the property still has its skeptics.
“Even at this point in my career, people are asking how I'm going to do a sophisticated hotel for cool people in Times Square. How? Just watch me.”