You wouldn’t think that a 17-year-old hotel would need to reposition itself in order to be identified with the city in which it was built. But when the New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge was constructed in 1998 — the first major new hotel to be built in the New York City borough in more than six decades — the hotel didn’t exactly trumpet its Brooklyn location, said general manager Sam Ibrahim.
“Nobody knew where Brooklyn was,” said Ibrahim, who began working at the hotel in 2001. The hotel’s major selling point was its proximity to Manhattan, two subways stops away, and that’s how it was sold — “as a New York City hotel,” he said. The hotel’s traditional interiors had more in common with midtown Manhattan than downtown Brooklyn.
Since then, Brooklyn — and its reputation — has soared. The borough has become so well known for its youth-fueled creativity and handcrafted aesthetic that it has become a global brand. Where he once had to explain where the borough was, “Now you see Brooklyn t-shirts on the streets of Paris,” Ibrahim said.
On Nov. 16, the hotel hosted a party to show off an ongoing $43-million makeover, one that is not only renovating the hotel from top to bottom, but injecting local flavor. The renovation is taking place in three phases. The first phase has reimagined the hotel’s traditional restaurant and bar into a convivial, industrial-chic Great Room, with both communal and private spaces, and local-first approach to food-and-beverage service.
The hotel has added artwork commissioned or acquired by Brooklyn artists in the hotel’s public spaces and guest rooms, and last week’s party celebrated the makeover of the 18,000-square-foot Grand Ballroom, which is part of the property’s combined 44,000 square feet of meeting space.
Guests dined on cuisine that spoke both to new Brooklyn, like salt-cured duck on pistachio cardamom toasts, with cherry compote, as well as the old — black-and-white cookies and egg creams, a created-in-Brooklyn concoction of seltzer, chocolate sauce, and milk, mixed up by a bartender and served with red-and-white-striped paper straws.
The next phase will be the renovation of the hotel’s 667 guest rooms. One wall of the model room we toured was nearly covered by a stylish photographic mural of the wooden floorboards of the 1883 Brooklyn Bridge — a perfect symbol of how the hotel links the old with new. “It used to be a Baby Boomer hotel,” Ibrahim said. “Now it’s a house for everybody.”