Four Seasons New York Downtown – Promising, But Not Perfect

Overview: One of the top choices in the downtown NYC market, but still a little green
Strengths: Rooms are well appointed, F&B was very strong, indoor pool
Drawbacks: My check-in was not handled well; all staff were nice, though some were a bit rough around the edges
Notable: Property construction was funded with EB-5 capital raised in China…helping wealthy folks there get Green Cards

Background

Several days and nights of business meetings in New York City brought me to the new Four Seasons New York Downtown property for a stay earlier this month.

As usual, I booked my stay via a Four Seasons Preferred Partner (FSPP) agent who provided my Four Seasons Elite information when I booked.  I knew I was going to need a late check-out as part of this visit.  Whereas Amex FHR bookings include a guaranteed late check out, oddly FSPP bookings don’t even contemplate a late checkout benefit.  I asked my agent to confirm with the hotel at the time of booking that they would confirm the late check out, otherwise I would need to book via Amex this time.  The hotel quickly confirmed the request.

This property opened in 2016 as part of a newly-built residential/hotel tower (roughly 50 stories) located a block from Ground Zero in a deal sponsored by Larry Silverstein.  The hotel occupies the bottom half and the residences form the top half.  I’ll share some notes regarding how the construction was funded later in this post.

Arrival

Unlike my recent stay at the new Four Seasons Ten Trinity in London, I didn’t hear from this property prior to my arrival.  The day before I arrived, I checked-in using the Four Seasons app and advised the hotel of my check-in time.  I was arriving at 4pm, so I didn’t need any sort of special accommodation for early check-in.

When I arrived at the property, a doorman opened the door to my car and greeted me.  He offered to help with my bags, but they were light and I carried them.  He did not walk me to the reception desk, but did tell me the way to go.  During most of my stay, there appeared to be only one doorman on duty.  Mindful there can be a lot of guests coming and going, it would be nice to see the door staffed with more than one person.

Four Seasons New York Downtown

My check-in experience did not go well.  There were two agents at the reception desk and no customers.  I presented my identification and advised the agent who was helping me that I had already checked-in using the app.  While he was very nice at all times, he was clearly baffled by my booking.  He mumbled something like, “let me see if I can find you a room.”  I reminded him that I had already checked-in and as a FSPP guest, usually the room is organized in advance.  He walked over to another desk in the lobby and conferred with someone.

During this time, another guest turned up.  This individual hadn’t checked-in online but was able to be fully checked-in, given his key and escorted to the lifts before I had a room key.

Finally, the agent helping me returned and had room keys for me.  The room was on the seventh floor.  I was not offered an escort to the lifts, nor was I even told where they were.  I had paid attention to the prior guest so knew the way at least.  I was not advised of the FSPP benefits that came with my booking.

Hotel Lobby
Lift Lobby

The seventh floor is the lowest guest room floor at the property.  I had booked a Deluxe Room (second category) and was upgraded to a Four Seasons Executive Suite.  (This wasn’t mentioned during check-in.)  This is the lowest suite category; despite the name, it is a full suite (divided between bedroom and living room).  Something seemed slightly “off,” however.  It turns out I was assigned a disabled-access suite.  Unto itself, that is fine, though there were a number of aspects of this room that made it not right for me.  A few items included that the closet was set up in such a way that I couldn’t hang a shirt without a third of the shirt resting on the closet floor.  Half of my suit ended up on the closet floor when hung.  The bathroom was also set up for easy access for people using wheelchairs.  I’m 6′ 4″ and find even regular-height things to be on the short side for me.

Too low for me!

I called down to the front desk and let them know that this room would not work for me and asked to be re-accommodated.  I was told it would be no problem and indeed, in less than five minutes from my call, the same person who checked me in was at the door and offered to escort me to a new room.

This new room was a Hudson Suite on the 22nd floor.  The staffer escorted me to the room and offered to show me around.  It quickly turned out, however, that it was only his second day on the job and he had actually never been inside of a suite at the hotel.  I told him I’d find my way within the room.  Though this individual had worked at a different (not Four Seasons) hotel previously, it is disappointing that there isn’t at least a few days of shadowing, or a trainee program, for a few days to learn the ropes.  (Despite the suite’s name, you could barely see the Hudson River.)

There was no welcome amenity in the original room or the replacement room, though late in the day a small bowl of fruit and some water bottles were delivered, along with a welcome note.  On the second day of my stay, a note describing the FSPP amenities was delivered to my room.

The Hudson Suite measures about 900 square feet, quite spacious by New York standards.  The living room featured a comfortable sofa, small dining table and a desk with chair.  The only criticism one could give was that it was a little dark.  The photos on the website show an additional window over the desk which would have made this room more bright.  While my room had an exterior wall, there was no window over the desk.

Hudson Suite – Living Room

Off of the entry foyer, there was a small bathroom with a shower.

Hall Bathroom

The bedroom was on the smaller side, but not too small.  The side of the bed closest to the window was a little tight.  The bed was very comfortable, though didn’t have the plush topper that I requested when I checked in.  The room had a windowed walk-in closet – of normal height – which was quite spacious.

All of the furnishings in the bedroom and living room were of very good quality.  There was art throughout the room which, while perhaps generic, gave the room a warmer feel.

The Hudson River is somewhere out there

The main bathroom was quite spacious.  If anything, it had a bit of wasted space between the tub and the shower.  The floor didn’t seem to be heated, but wasn’t cold, either.  The water came out of the shower head in needle-like streams.  I’m sure the head was heavily regulated to conserve water.  It did get nicely hot, however.

Some wasted space beyond the tub

The toilet had a “Japanese seat,” and the jets/etc were visible, but there were no controls for it.  Odd.

Dining

Like many New York hotels, the property has only one restaurant.  CUT is a Puck-sponsored steakhouse located off of the lobby.  I had drinks here one evening and found the service to be reasonable, but not attentive.  We did have some “sliders” from the menu; these were quite good.

I ordered breakfast through in-room dining twice as well as lunch while I was working on one day.  Consistently, the food arrived promptly, was hot and tasted very good.  I ordered breakfast through the app both times, ordering the night before.  There was only one mistake made, with the waiter having milk instead of the requested cream.  When we figured this out, he offered to get cream, but I declined and enjoyed the coffee black instead.  It was quite good.

Of note, they offer a number of blended fruit smoothies (without yogurt – just fruit and veggies) and also offer to create custom blends upon request.  I had them make a strawberry, pineapple and lime mix one morning; it was delicious.

Each day, they brought a small home-made yogurt with breakfast as a small gift from the chef.

Eggs Royale! (a/k/a Salmon Benedict)
Yokes look different here versus Europe
Strawberry Pineapple Lime smoothie
Homemade fruit yogurt

Perfectly cooked

More yogurt on the second day

I ordered Lunch via the telephone.  The agent was courteous and professional.  The bill ran about $75 for a club sandwich.  Aikes!

The $75 Club!

Truffle Fries

Lunch also came with a small gift from the chef.

One of the meals was delivered by two waiters.  I suspect one was a trainee.  Each of the waiters – both solo and those working as a team – were a bit green.  They were trying to be nice, but were a bit too chatty.  Not unprofessionally so, but close.  This compares to the wait staff at the Four Seasons New York Midtown, were service was nearly flawless.

Pool and Spa

I had a bit of downtime one day during my stay and took the liberty of booking a spa treatment.  I also did this via the Four Seasons app and was called (on my mobile, which I provided during the app session) to confirm.  I was also advised of the 24-hour cancellation policy.  (Many resorts run a 4-hour spa cancellation policy; I suspect as a city property, they faced higher cancellations and went with 24 hours to maximize utilization.)

The spa has a moderate sized locker room.  The locker room had a steam room but no dry sauna or whirlpool option.  Everything was new and clean.

The waiting room (a/k/a relaxation room) was small but comfortably appointed.  There was a lady in the room when I arrived and she was a bit chatty.  She was from New York and works in Times Square but tiptoed out of the office to come down for a mid-day spa break.  Her son lived in the building and she said he gave her gift cards regularly.  My therapist knew her and greeted her by name when she came to retrieve me.

My therapist was a strong woman from eastern Europe.  The massage was one of the better ones I’ve had and she was still going strong well into my 80-minute heavy pressure deep tissue massage.

After the massage, I went over to the pool to get in a few laps.  The pool was comfortably cool and great for swimming.  There was a lifeguard at the pool, which I found to be unusual.  He said there are a fair number of families in the building and with all of the children, it was helpful to have a life guard.  He was clearly bored most of the time sitting alone in the pool room.  Many of the walls in the pool room were stone and there was an appropriate piece of art at one end of the pool.

A gorgeous pool

Departure

While my arrival was choppy, my departure was very smooth.  My key-card kept working straight until I checked out.  Often, with late check out, the keys de-activate after 12noon or 1pm and you need to go back to the desk to get them re-activated.  The bill for my room was accurate and all of the FSPP benefits were applied properly without me having to ask.  The bill was in my email inbox before I walked from the front desk to the front door.

* * * * *

For those not familiar, the United States offers an “EB-5” visa program which allows foreigners who invest money (at least $1 million) creating at least ten jobs in the US a fast-track opportunity towards a Green Card.  A business partner of mine in China was involved in raising the capital from wealthy Chinese investors that was used to build this property.  They received a paltry (in my opinion) fixed return on their equity capital, but were then fast-tracked for Green Cards.  This allowed Larry Silverstein, a longstanding New York developer, to build the tower with low cost money and him getting a disproportionate share of the profits from the development.

I’ve known of the program for years, any many other countries offer similar programs – but this was the first time I’d knowingly been in one of the products of the program.  There’s nothing specifically wrong with this program, but knowing the truth behind the money somehow felt a bit odd to me.

* * * * *

Overall, this is a strong property.  I’d put the pool at this property second only to the Mandarin up at Columbus Circle for New York hotel pools.  While the desk staffer who assisted with my check-in and the wait staff from in room dining could have each been a bit more polished, they certainly all tried hard and seemed to care.  Hopefully this property will continue to attract stronger and stronger staff and operate at a level equal to the midtown location.

Thinking back, I don’t recall the last Four Seasons room I arrived at which wasn’t set up in advance for my arrival.  Perhaps a bit more attention from management to the details wouldn’t hurt, either.

Details
Four Seasons New York Downtown
http://www.fourseasons.com/newyorkdowntown/
27 Barclay Street, New York, NY 10007
+1 646 880-1999
@FSNYDowntown

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