A natural and organic spa experience

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Associate editor Cathy Carroll visited The Benjamin Hotel, which opened in April. Her report follows.

NEW YORK -- The cool, creamy lotion the spa therapist stroked on my face smelled good enough to eat. "That's because there is tahini in it," said the therapist at the Woodstock Spa & Wellness Center, which is one of several distinguishing features of The Benjamin, Manhattan's newest all-suite hotel.

The ingredients of all the products she would use in the next seven steps of the facial are made up of herbs and flowers grown organically -- without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides or insecticides -- in southern Australia, she said.

Many of the products are shipped in glass containers to protect their purity, she added, her soft voice as calming as the gentle, new-age music that played in the treatment room.

Presumably any guest here would marvel and welcome the contrast of the spa with the taxi-screeching, bus exhaust-filled streets just outside this midtown oasis. This is one of the reasons Manhattan East Suite Hotels, New York's largest all-suite hotel group, is betting The Benjamin will gain an edge in attracting corporate chief executive officers who are visiting the city.

Located on the corner of East 50th Street and Lexington Avenue, The Benjamin, Manhattan East's first four-star executive suite hotel, is on the site of the former Hotel Beverly, and has 209 rooms, including 97 one-bedroom suites and a deluxe two-bedroom suite.

Brooke Barrett, one of six partners who own and manage Manhattan East, said high-level executives today value spas as much as fitness centers. For business travelers, it is an effective solution to a major concern: alleviating stress during a business trip, she said.

This is not idle pampering. The Woodstock Spa and Wellness Center is known for its progressive treatments and holistic philosophy, according to Manhattan East. The offerings on the spa menu, from an in-room massage for jet-lag recovery to the "gentleman's facial" and aromatherapy foot bath, are touted as valuable ways of "rebalancing, destressing and detoxing," according to the spa's owner and operator, Paul Woodstock, who is based at The Benjamin property.

Woodstock, who created the Woodstock Spa & Wellness Center in East Norwich, N.Y., said he used to be a frequent business traveler and knows how to remedy the effects of such stress. The 24-hour fitness center offers personal training sessions, yoga instruction, strength training and cardiovascular exercise equipment.

The $30 million refurbishment also included the installation of a high-tech communications system and the restoration of details that highlight the original design of architect Emery Roth.

The suites have executive desks, ergonomic desk chairs, two-line phones with voice mail, dataports, a separate line for a combination fax/printer/copy machine and high-speed Internet access.

The furnishings here create an atmosphere that is difficult to achieve: warmth as well as stylishness. All of the suites have sitting areas and fully equipped galleys with refrigerators, microwave ovens, coffeemakers, dishware and utensils, minibars and complimentary coffee and teas. Other amenities include Bose Wave radios with an alarm; custom-designed mattresses; Frette robes, cotton sheets and down-filled duvets, and Judith Jackson aromatherapy bath products.

A selection of about a dozen types of pillows are offered ranging from gel-filled and hypo-allergenic options to water-filled and buckwheat varieties. A magnetic therapy pillow is standard in every room in addition to the hotel's down pillow.

Chef Larry Forgione's An American Place restaurant, which has won awards for its new American cuisine, is scheduled to open at the hotel this summer. Meeting, conference and catering facilities accommodate 10 to 110 people.

Rates begin at $320 per night, double, for superior guest rooms and reach $775 for a two-bedroom suite. Special weekend rates start at $229 per night, double, for a superior guest room and $299 for a one-bedroom suite.

The Benjamin
Phone: (212) 320-8002 or (888)-4-BENJAMIN.
Web: www.thebenjamin.com

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