Susanne Hatje has the most marvellous job in the world, she says. One day she is in Las Vegas, networking with 4,419 other top travel and hospitality professionals from a myriad of countries. Next day she is back in the luxury hotel she runs, Mandarin Oriental New York. This is the hotel that soars from floors 34 to 54 of the North Tower of Time Warner Center, at the south-west corner of Central Park. It was about two years ago, she tells the gal, that she started noticing the centre of activity moving to this area of town.
Her phone, of course, has to be with her at all times, for professional reasons. This gives her the perfect opportunity to take photos whenever she sees something special. Looking out from the all-wall windows of her 35th floor lobby she might see – a rainbow (thanks Susanne, for sharing these images, all taken on your phone). Ah, Central Park, all 843 acres managed by the Central Park Conservancy on behalf of the city government, on a $37.5 million annual budget. How can a PARK swallow up so much money? Coincidentally it also has 37.5 million visitors a year. Think insurance. Especially in autumn (fall) when the leaves drop and the tarmac roads in the park become slippery, you can bet your life that everyone who slips will either be a lawyer or have one in the family.
Think security, all the guarding that is needed. And then you have the cost of plantings and maintenance… There might also be the ongoing burden of a mortgage for buying the land: it cost a staggering five million way back in 1850. Thank goodness for the park, today. In the days when I had more time I would run the southern loop, ideal when staying in the stunning Mandarin Oriental (years ago when Raymond Bickson headed The Mark, I would do a more northerly run, around the Reservoir).
In winter, there is iceskating. In summer, biking, and far too much of it. As a biker myself I am appalled at the lack of road sense of tourists, often families with small kids, who have no idea what a speeding bike could, perhaps tragically, do. But biking is taking off, in a big way. Golf, in the USA, has lost five million of its 30 million regular players in the last decade, and is forecast to lose the same number again by 2020 (why? many young people think golf is boring and for the old). What is taking its place? Well, 38% of Americans under 30 who have played golf have turned away from the game, and 20% have taken up biking. Here is a call to all luxury hotels, please make sure you have good bikes and helmets to borrow, and storage for those bikes who check-in with their two-legged owners.