If you don’t see any hotel staff from check-in `til check-out, did you even stay there?
Sister City is an “experiment in essentialism”, which means you get everything you need and nothing you don’t. Is it really necessary for someone to greet you and hand you a room key? Nope, not when you can swipe a machine to make your own. Does anyone want to wait in line when they’re rushing to the airport? Of course not, so just check out online.
It’s not supposed to be completely human-free at Sister City, in New York’s Lower East Side; it just so happens that my stay turned out that way. Before I had a chance to buzz the intercom at the entrance, another guest was coming out and let me in. Then when I got to the reception of self-service kiosks, it seemed to be unstaffed. I later realised the young woman dressed in black, who was chatting to someone else, probably worked there.
The automated system won’t be a problem if you’ve ever let yourself into a home using keys from a lockbox. It’s just as easy, 24/7 and ideal for introverts.
This practical minimalism extends to the hotel’s 200 rooms, where the décor is a cross between Finnish sauna and Japanese bento box. The bed is simply a mattress on a platform but the Scandinavian-style light wood, striped linens and underneath storage make it cool.
Warmth is added by other designer touches, from the soft-lit mirror to a Bang & Olufsen Bluetooth speaker hanging from a string. A basin is located in the corner, with the shower and toilet in a separate private bathroom. Down the corridor is a shared station of amenities including clothes steamer, iron, ironing board and water fountain.
But it’s not all frugal. The included breakfast is a generous spread of croissants and pastries, toast, yogurt, fruit, granola, juice, tea and coffee. A ground-floor restaurant and rooftop bar were yet to open during our stay but sound like excellent additions. The Last Light bar on the 11th floor has views from Manhattan Bridge to Empire State Building, along with craft cocktails, wine, beer and small plates by award-winning chef Joe Ogrondnek.
Sister City’s location (225 The Bowery) is walking distance to many bars, restaurants and smaller galleries. The New Museum, Katz’s Deli and Russ & Daughters are local icons. Chinatown, Nolita and Little Italy are also nearby, and Brooklyn is just over the bridge.
Rates start at US$259 (approx. AU$373) per night.
Find out more: sistercitynyc.com
All photos by Brian W. Ferry