[Note: This is somewhat of a dyspeptic rant. Proceed with caution.]
When I moved here, Union Square was a drug-infested cesspool that ordinary people avoided at night. Stuyvesant Park teemed with crackheads and hookers. When my car was close to being called up to Car Heaven, I'd park it overnight on the street and find cigarette butts ground into the dashboard the next morning, evidence that someone had popped the lock and napped in my back seat.
The ideal neighborhood in which to raise a family, n'est-ce pas?
Ha, but what I haven't told you about is the incredible metamorphosis the area has undergone since the Union Square BID rode into down in a cloud of hoofbeats. The park now has several gleaming corporate franchises lining its perimeter, its playgrounds and dog run are overrun with gleeful beings, and I could walk across it at 3 a.m. with C-notes cascading out of my cargo shorts in complete safety. This is mostly a good thing.
Throughout this tectonic shift, there was one little slice of ordinary that persevered -- the Gramercy Park Hotel. My wife and I used to hang out in the faded elegance of the hotel bar and drink cocktails, and her parents used to stay there (and gain access to the park) when they came to see the grandkids. The rooms were large and clean and decorated with a fusty, Old World charm that had gone a bit threadbare from years of benign neglect. The hotel was an Automat among restaurants, quirky and anachronistic, and a beloved institution that deserved a better fate than this.
Today I wandered into the new GPH, which recently re-opened after it was stripped to the studs and renovated. The web site calls the decor "Haute Bohemian," which is fop-speak for "Postmodern Incoherent Smugfart-o-rama." I was instantly reviled at all the visual affronts, and when I tried to take a few pictures, my camera threw up. (Then each droplet of vomit rose up from the little puddle, and threw up.) Dozens of spindly obeisants with waxed necks and 2% body fat glided across the marble floors, proud to be part of such a luxury outfit that offers $24 Mohitotinis and a two-room view of the park for $700 a night.
So over 15 years, the hookers and homeless have been pushed out and replaced by hordes of supercilious Eurotrashbags. I'm trying to decide if this is an improvement.