Aman Is Opening A Hotel In New York City, But I’m Skeptical

When it comes to mainstream points hotels, I love Park Hyatt and St. Regis. Who doesn’t?

But if I had to name my single favorite hotel “chain,” it would have to be Aman. They have around 30 properties in 20 countries, and over the years I’ve been lucky enough to stay at a fair number of them for special occasions. They’ve been incredible across the board. While I don’t understand how people can pay $900+ per night for a Ritz-Carlton “resort factory,” I think Amans can be worth every penny, if you’re in a position to spend that kind of money on a hotel stay when splurging.


Amantaka in Luang Prabang, Laos

When I think of Aman hotels, the following things are what immediately comes to mind:

  • The properties are small, typically with somewhere around 10-40 rooms
  • The service is out-of-this-world, where needs are actually anticipated; expect to never be asked your room number when you’re on property, or to sign for anything
  • While there are some exceptions, most of their best properties are remote, so expect to fly somewhere on a small plane or drive two hours down a dirt road to get to an Aman
  • They give you access insider experiences you don’t get anywhere else; while a lot of places say that, at Amans it’s a real thing

Amansara in Siem Reap, Cambodia

So that’s why I was a bit surprised to see that Aman’s newsletter hints at their latest destination, which sees them expanding to “a new island.” Here it is:

So it looks like Aman is opening a hotel in New York City. I had heard these rumors before, though never looked into it. Based on doing some Googling, it looks like this has been under development for some time. The Crown Building, located at 57th & 5th, will be turned into luxury condos and an Aman hotel. The hotel is expected to have 79 rooms, will be in the building’s fourth through ninth floor, and will include a pool, spa, gym, etc.

This will be Aman’s third property in the US, after Amangiri in Utah and Amangani in Wyoming.

I’m the biggest Aman advocate and lover out there, though I have to say that this is one project I’m a bit skeptical of:

  • The hotel will have 79 rooms, which makes it one of the biggest Aman properties, so I wonder how personalized service can really be
  • Aman’s largest footprint is in Asia, and obviously most of Asia has a much more service-driven culture than the US does; will they be able to uphold anywhere close to the standard level of service in a NYC hotel?
  • Since the hotel will be on the fourth through ninth floor, I suspect it won’t have much in the way of views
  • Amans are about unique experiences, so what kind of “special access” to things will they be able to arrange in the city?

Aman Sveti Stefan in Montenegro

This is a project I’m fascinated by. This isn’t Aman’s first city hotel — for example, they have one in Tokyo as well, which I’ve heard is phenomenal. However, I feel like that’s easy enough to do, given the service culture in Japan.

To Amanjunkies (and others), what do you make of Aman expanding to New York City? Do you think they’ll be able to make it as special as their other hotels, or are they just setting themselves up to disappoint?

Comments

  1. Best thing about Aman’s are you can request any toileteries you like. BVLGARI, Hermes, Aesop, Loewe, Acqa di Parma, Le Labo etc. – You name it and they stock it for you.

  2. Protip for anyone who wants to come to NYC and have a pleasant, culture-driven, non-crowd-heavy experience: For the love of god, don’t stay in soulless midtown where this and so many of the other luxury chain hotels are. Stay in one of the hundreds of boutique hotels in neighborhoods where New Yorkers actually live, not just work.

    The culture that’s actually in midtown–Broadway, MoMA, etx–will still be easily accessible by subway and cabs, I promise. And you’ll feel much better about life and New York.

  3. Amanjunkie here. I have been to 13 of the properties thus far. My last favorite were New Delhi (closed) and Tokyo. What an Aman stands for and what is special about them doesn’t translate well to big cities. I am disappointed this is where they are focused. I would rather see Egpyt or Northern Spain or Myanmar or New Zealand where the uniqueness of Aman and the experiences you get can be best achieved. I am afraid it will be a bunch of rich bankers in the lobby working away.

  4. Ben, you have to try their Aman Tokyo property on day. It’s a phenomenal hotel, one of my favorite in the world (I made a review with Youtube clip here: http://wp.me/p4d1XU-F1e). Aman used to have another fabulous urban resort as well: Aman Delhi, which was later turned into The Lodhi and is now managed independently (and still a great property). If Aman New York matches the design and service levels of Aman’s former Delhi property and current Tokyo hotel (and I have no doubt it well), then it will be an exceptional property.

  5. @Lucky, the Aman Tokyo is phenomenal. You’ve got to give it a try.I rank it as the best city hotel on earth, with the Manadarin Oriental Bangkok a distant second. Incredibly peaceful for being in such a busy city, but can get busy with non-guests as well, which I think will be an issue for an NYC location. Will be interesting to see if they can hold the brand in NYC.

  6. I’ve been to half a dozen Amans over the years, and loved every single moment. I’m always thrilled when a company — or a person — stretches itself and tries to become more than it is. Win or lose, the attempt has value. However, this hotel will be right across the street from Trump Tower, and that’s not a view I want.

  7. As Chakra says, across the street from Trump Tower is not a relaxing location nowadays. Barricades (and dump trucks used as barricades), protesters, traffic jams. I always walk on Madison or 6th now to actively avoid that block.

  8. Agree w John Cuomo – Aman’s uniqueness rests (IMHO) with its exotic gorgeous locales and serenity offered in settings that blend effortlessly with the local environment. While the Tokyo Aman is beautiful with exceptional service – I’ve had more than my share of memorable stays at th PH Tokyo – to the point where I’ve chosen the PH over Aman.

  9. I agree with John Cuomo above that Aman for us doesn’t translate well in a city hotel. Aman for us is best in remote locations which is how it first distinguished itself. We’ve been to 12 Aman properties and consider ourselves Amanjunkies. Yet when we stayed at the Aman Summer Palace in Beijing, we knew immmediately that the normal Aman value proposition wasn’t there for us in a city. It wasn’t quite the tranquil and spectacular Aman “retreat” that we yearned to experience.

    That being said, Aman Tokyo and Aman New York may not be for us in terms of cost/benefit or “retreat” feel, but there are plenty of other affluent customers who will enjoy the Aman ambience and smaller footprint in a city like New York or Tokyo. Tokyo goes to prove that Aman, while not for everyone, still will find its customer base.

    This New York property (79 rooms) is smaller than Tokyo (84 rooms), but it will lack the views that Tokyo offers. This lack of view will be the biggest weakness for the Aman New York. It if it creates a glorious spa like it has at the Connaught in London, the Aman New York may yet find a niche to set itself apart and among the best in NYC. That being said, New York offers a load of competition with incredible views, so not everyone is going to want to pay a premium for a non-view room or suite.

  10. Given the very mixed (or downright negative) reviews of the Aman experience at their two US properties, I’m not hopeful. Room rates likely to be double the best properties in NYC, what are they really offering? Lately in the US it hasn’t been the service.

  11. @ Lucky — so is this pretty much an Aman version of PH NY? PH NY is in close proximity, also on lower floors of a skyscraper (no views), and has similar amenities (e.g. pool).

  12. @Varun Susaeia: in a city like New York where the last place I want to spend time is inside the hotel I prefer to stay in a regular hotel and save the money from staying at an Aman property and buy whatever toileteries you like for the entire year to use at your home.

  13. Agree wholeheartedly. Love Aman resorts, which are top notch. They are usually in gorgeous destinations with lots of outdoor space. Curious how the Aman NY will compare.

  14. I find it hard to believe that they will find people in NYC courteous and deferential enough to be staff at an Aman. Or who would work at an Aman and not get corrupted/embittered by life in NYC.

  15. Another issue that comes to mind when I heard NYC is the potential complication with unions. NYC is a very union dominant city, so I wonder if Amman can do enough to drive them out, and how that cost will be reflected in the rates. Also having worked for a luxury hotel in the city, I can personally attest that it’s so much more difficult to provide that level of personal, anticipatory service when union is involved

  16. I have a feeling this would be branded as an Aman Residences, if not part of it, which makes more sense in an urban setting like New York. It’s hard to imagine to have an ultra luxury hotel in a middle of a concrete jungle.

  17. There was a time that Aman actually owned the hotels they managed. That changed starting with the property in Turks and Caicos. Flagging a property an Aman, in my opinion, is just not the same (and this contributes to the problems with the US properties). The developers of Aman NY paid over 500 million for the upper floors of the building. No doubt they will recoup some of this with the proposed aman condos (even despite a slowing luxury market in ny). However, I would anticipate a strained relationship between Aman management and the hotel owners when the hotel doesn’t perform as expected (particularly given its location and utter lack of views).

  18. Lucky, thanks for searching this out… we were wondering over here, and I thought it might be Manhattan from the clues. This , like Venice, doesn’t interest me that much… love the more remote locations… though Aman Tokyo may is an exception.

  19. Stayed at a dozen Aman, and 11 of them became some of my favorite hotels in the world. Yet Aman Tokyo ranks as one of the worst experiences. No doubt that the hardware and design of the room were top-notch, but the service just falls apart at a city Aman. Concierge do not even come close to that of Ritz/Park/MO/FS, and yes they do make you sign your room check and do not recognize you what so ever.

    I would stay away from Aman Tokyo, and perhaps from any Aman city properties

  20. My guess is a unique experience they can offer is a helicopter out to the Hamptons for the day, things like that that are uber lux and can be special to the hotel and the guests. And yes, never ever ever ever stay midtown. That’s a nightmare. I don’t mind staying in the financial district since it’s really easy to get a good night’s rest since it’s quiet at night.

  21. @ QR
    Where do you suggest staying in New York? I’m visiting from Alice Springs Australia early next year and would love to avoid the crowd heavy experience and see the real New York.

  22. @QR- i disagree. People who go to New York go to see the attractions you mentioned and much more. Why on earth would one want to stay in a neighborhood, like u said, where new yorkers live? Theres 0 to nothing to do there for tourists. As a tourist I want to stay where all the action is at, where I can walk back and forth to the sights, and not take a cab or the subway all the time. Hence, I totally recommend everyone to stay in Midtown. Best area of the city for tourists.

  23. @schar — To each their own. For what it’s worth, I heavily disagree with you that the area with all “the sights” is midtown, and also disagree with you that where New Yorkers live are areas with no sights. Of course, it depends on your individual interests and what you’re hoping to get out of a visit. Also, some people are fine with 15 minute trips on the subway, where other people find that repulsive, so of course it depends. A lot is personal! My parents love staying in Midtown when they visit, for example.

    @Big V — A lot of it is individual and depends on what you want! Personally, when I visit a new city, I like to be close to nice/hip restaurants, good bars, and charming streets. Of course, in a lot of the fun neighborhoods of New York, it’s hard to avoid crowds, but midtown crowds are a whole different level. I’d recommend staying somewhere in the West Village, Chelsea, Soho, Flatiron, or East Village. Don’t get me wrong, there are still a lot of people, but they’re “easier” crowds to deal with if that makes any sense, and there’s still a LOT to do. And in most of those neighborhoods, you can get to Times Square in 15 minutes, and Central Park in 20. My advice to you would be to google around and look for various guides. Everyone recommends different things, but a consensus may start to emerge after some time, and you can triangulate a neighborhood based on your interests. And keep in mind of course I’m bringing my own biases to all this, too!

  24. Yeah that is a pretty hellish block and I’m miffed that they choose to be wedged into the not very glamorous 4th-9th floors? I would have thought they’d have gotten there own building in Noho, Soho, the West Village (where Soho House is) or Tribeca. I’m a New Yorker and an Aman junkie and I don’t think this location on these floors sounds like a good idea. @schar it’s funny to hear someone who doesn’t live here think that midtown is where “all the action is” nothing could be further from the truth. Most of the best museums are on the Upper East Side. The New Whitney is in the West Village, a neighborhood where New Yorkers live, adjacent to the very happening meat packing district. The New Museum is on the Bowery across the street from the newly relocated (from midtown) ICP on the Lower East Side (where I live a real New Yorker for 32 years). One of the hottest neighborhoods in the city, teaming with new galleries bars, restaurants and home to Abrons Arts Center, which has a long and storied history of presenting cutting edge theater and performance. Midtown has a ton of chain hotels over priced and not very good (mostly) restaurants and millions of tourists. If you love Broadway then it’s a great location, but I can’t think of anything else that recommends it – oh it is currently the new gayborhood so there are tons of bars – but I still think the bars downtown are way better.

  25. My wife and I are Aman certified Aman Junkies, but the reason we go to the resorts is definitely not the service. Their service really isn’t anything special, especially when compared to a stay at the Upper House in Hong Kong. Their accommodations though are unparalleled and definitely offer a feeling of peace that no other resort chain matches. This will be a very difficult feat to achieve on the 4th-9th floor of a building that faces Trump Tower.

  26. I’m pleased to hear people like the Aman in Tokyo because all I’ve heard is disappointing experiences compared to their more “signature” properties!

  27. @Big V – though mid town and Times Square are “tourist traps” it is also smack in the middle of the the biggest transit hub and subway in the area. It is super easy to get anywhere for 2.50 or whatever it is via the subway from that area. Sure staying in a “neighborhood ” like the upper east side may be cool but taking a subway or getting Uber to get to soho isn’t as much fun for a tourist.

  28. No problem @big v
    It is what it is. It’s a tourist trap for a reason :-). Eat your meals and hit up cool bars or clubs outside that area. But getting a decent hotel there for its location isn’t the end of the world. And even as a tourist trap it’s still pretty cool to see Times Square at night. I live 10 miles away from NYC and I play tourist sometimes and it’s fun. Just know the food and stores there are way over priced.

  29. Hi Lucky,
    I’ve been looking for your review about Amansara and Amantaka resort. Will there be review for these 2 Amans? I was looking for them but cannot found any but brief review from Ford.

    Really looking forward to read your experience in these 2 Aman resorts. Thanks

  30. @ Nick

    “If you love Broadway then it’s a great location, but I can’t think of anything else that recommends it – oh it is currently the new gayborhood”

    The last part tells you what the attractions are for much of the readership of this blog. To which I’d also add MoMA, one of the world’s finest modern art galleries, and you’re within an hour or so’s stroll of The Met and the Frick – a walk which is past some of the most ridiculous over-the-top designer stores in the world (which, apparently, The Gays love).

    I usually stay in midtown…

  31. @erick schmitt

    Are you serious? You clearly haven’t set foot in any of the truly great NYC hotels like The Pierre, or The Carlyle where the service is among the best in the world. Not everyone in New York is as “corrupted/embittered” as you sound in that comment.

    Having said that the particular location of this Aman does seem unfortunate as many other readers have commented, being one of the busiest blocks in the city and essentially across from Trump Tower. The bar is already very, very high in NYC with plenty of luxurious, legendary hotels at the USD 900 price point in better/more serene locations. They’ll have to work quite hard to make this unique.

  32. Amman has lost its touch. The service is on average that of a Westin but at times superior but unpredictable and not consistent. Ever since Vlad took over it’s really gone downhill. They are just trying to punch every penny now. I’ve had some pretty bad experiences, most recently at Amanpuri.

    Ever since Vlad locked Adrian Zecha out of his office and kicked him out of his home it’s started to fall. Zecha was the brain child for this and it was his passion. The Indian firm that took over next did a fair job of trying to keep the ship together but if you were to put it in water today it would sink like a rock. I believe the amanjunkies are propping this place up with hype because they have a biased view, the better it sounds, the more people go, less money they lose in monthly maintenance costs (roughly US$10k a month)

    Aman’s biggest money maker is the villas. They sell them for many times what it costs to build them and then keep half of what they rent them for. They don’t even pay you out until year end. With that kind of float of course they have capital to open more. They also don’t report low sales numbers. Always keeping the ask price high hoping someone stupid enough buys. Their entire business model is based around convincing people who have more money than they know what to do with to give them some of it. This model is not sustainable. One day I think Anna will come crashing down. (Worse than it did for the Indian firm who sold it at a loss) and if anyone is capable of doing it, it’s a profit over customer focused Vlad.

  33. Great points that I fully agree with. It’s a shame we weren’t able to experience Aman under Zecha. Even without remarkable service we are still big fans. I can only imagine how much more incredible it would have been with fantastic service to accompany the beautiful accommodations.

  34. My first stays at Aman properties started in 1995 (Amanwara, Amandari, Amanusa) and i’ve been an Amanjunkie ever since.
    I work in Manhattan and the view from my office is right on the Crown Building, and as soon as I saw the top of the tower in the teaser Aman NYC video, I knew this was it.

    A couple months ago, I stayed at Amanzoe, in Greece. And it just occurred to me. Having stayed at Amangiri and Amangani in the US after Vlad took over, there is one crucial element that has been missing from the Zecha days. Service.
    Don’t get me wrong, the service is still above competitors, but it’s a far cry from what you find in most Aman in Asia.
    When he started to open properties in the US, Africa, and other places outside of Asia, Zecha always made it an obligation with the local authorities to “import” many Indonesian personnel to work in the hotels and train the locals that would be hired. And every time you would visit a hotel, you would be met by this unique sense of hospitality and top notch service that you experienced in Asia. In 2009, I stayed at Amanjenna in Marrakech and indeed, the personnel was 50% from indonesia and the atmosphere was very much Aman-like.

    This is not the case anymore. Sadly.
    Amanzoe is beautiful, probably the most beautiful resort in Europe. But the level of service is just not there. They are trying, but without this emphasis on oriental/asian discretion and hospitality, the Aman experience is just missing. It’s fine if you haven’t experienced the Asian properties in the mid-90s to 2000s I guess.

    But suddenly, the playing field is more leveled and it won’t be long before Peninsula and other Shangri-La catch up. I tried both in Paris recently and I have to say their service and the beauty of the locations are on par with some Amans.

    As for the one to be across from my window here in NY, who knows how it will end up. As I look at floor 4 to 9, the first thing that comes to mind is the noise! To me, Aman is all about silence, peace, zen atmosphere. And when your window faces the corner of 57th and 5th, you better have some 5-inches thick windows to cover the noise…
    But it’s Aman, so you will probably have a state of the art nature sound machine by the bed!

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