A city with public spaces is a happy city

I left Manhattan almost six years ago to move to Hong Kong, but every time I come home I can’t help but feel like a tourist in my own city — and not in the sense that I feel lost or culture-shocked, but because I can’t stop taking photos of this amazing city. Though few tourists stray far from Midtown, what lies farther south and across the river in Brooklyn continues to give me a whole new appreciation for this city I call home.  

Every corner is occupied by fantastic boutique shops, ubiquitous food vendors, buskers and food trucks; the streets are lined with bicyclists and pedicabs; parks are filled with sunbathers, dog lovers and kite flyers; and previously underutilized spaces like the old railroad tracks have been transformed to the elevated High Line pedestrian park while the pier at Christopher Street was used for a public outdoor screening of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Across the river in Brooklyn, old industrial buildings are transformed into hipster hangouts like boutique hotels such as the Wythe Hotel, the Brooklyn Brewery beer garden attracting summer lushes, Brooklyn Bowl offering live music and bowling, flea markets hiding golden treasures from the past and Nitehawk Cinema, which is the only movie theater I’ve ever been to that offers waitress service during a movie — not to mention killer drinks and gourmet popcorn. On the streets (and back to food again) it’s tacos at The Diner (sister property to La Esquina), oysters at Walter Foods, barbecue at Fette Sau, tapas at Bacaro, French brasserie at Les Enphants Terrible and precision cocktails at Apotheke. The list goes on.  

While I missed all the real summer activity that will start in a few weeks — including Concert in the Park, Bryant Park movies and more — there was never a dull moment during my stay. It would be great to see other cities take advantage of their underutilized spaces to create urban retreats that not only promote the staycation, but encourage visitors to keep coming back. What role can hotels play in promoting the development of these spaces?

Would love to hear your thoughts.