NYC's cosmopolitan Beekman attracts business crowd

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NEW YORK -- Walk into the lobby of the 26-story Beekman Tower, just one block north of United Nations headquarters at East 49th Street and First Avenue, and you may wonder if you have stepped into the U.N. itself.

At any one time, some 25 nationalities are represented among the guests in the 175 rooms of the all-suites property, many on business at the U.N. or at nearby foreign consulates, according to general manager Alvin Lopez.

As befits the polyglot atmosphere, the concierge, Andre, who comes from Poland, speaks nine languages. And a newsstand around the corner sells a dozen overseas newspapers.

The stylish, congenial boutique hotel has made the most of its neighborhood, which is not only diplomatic territory but includes the swank precincts of Beekman Place and Sutton Place, overlooking the East River.

The property, a designated historic monument, fits into the surroundings as one of the city's major art deco towers, noted for its sleek, dramatic lines and period ornamentation.

When it opened in 1929 as the Panhellenic Tower, it was a residence for professional women who were affiliated with Greek-letter sororities.

The Denihan family, which owns and operates the 10-property Manhattan East Suite Hotels, acquired the property in 1968, renaming it for Beekman Hill, on which the tower stands.

In 1990, the Beekman underwent a $14 million restoration, during which the accommodations were reconfigured into their present inventory of 54 studio suites, 117 one-bedroom suites and four two-bedroom suites.

Each unit contains a kitchen and dining area for four persons, while the bedroom suites have a living area, some of them retaining charming period furnishings.

Besides updating the elevators and the rest of the infrastructure, the renovation restored the art deco accoutrements and put in a modest ballroom, in addition to four other meeting rooms.

Also introduced was the Zephyr Grill, a streetfront restaurant and bar in a classic art deco environment. The dining facility complements the Top of the Tower piano bar and restaurant on the 26th floor, offering spectacular views of the East River.

Not the least of the innovations were double-pane, gas-filled windows that virtually eliminate traffic noise from busy First Avenue.

In 1997, another remodeling included the installation of sprinklers in guest rooms along with new wallpaper and fabrics.

Another amenity is a health club, open 24 hours, seven days a week.

Lopez, the general manager, who has been at the property for most of his 15 years with Manhattan East Suite Hotels, presides over an engaging setting that is both spotless and friendly.

Speaking of the 117-member staff, Lopez said: "Because we have a family atmosphere, most of our employees have been here for many years. They know our standards and adhere to them."

According to those familiar with the company's 10 properties and total of 2,000 guest accommodations, the Beekman rates as the most stylish and architecturally notable, although it is ranked third in terms of overall amenities and price.

The top-ranked is the Benjamin Hotel at 50th Street and Lexington Avenue, followed by the Surrey Hotel at 76th Street near Madison Avenue. The Surrey is home to the renowned Cafe Boulud.

The Beekman's clientele, a large number of whom are repeaters, is about 70% corporate, including those attending small meetings, Lopez said.

Some of these are relocating to companies in New York or are here for extended training, for whom the hotel's relatively spacious accommodations (averaging 350 to 450 square feet) offer a welcome level of comfort.

About 30% of the guests are here on holiday, many of them with families. They are attracted by the property's comfortable accommodations, which have attractive and soothing decor.

Amenities include Spectra Vision TVs, electronic locks, hair dryers, in-room safes, irons and ironing boards and nonsmoking floors.

Deluxe suites feature marble baths with phone, 25-inch TVs, VCRs and two-line speaker phones with voice mail. In addition, some suites boast spacious private terraces overlooking the East River.

Rates for less than one week are quoted for singles, with each additional person charged $20 extra. For those staying more than a week or more than a month, discounted daily rates are offered.

The daily short-term rates are $293 for a studio suite; $321 for a one-bedroom superior suite; $364 for a one-bedroom deluxe suite, $599 for a two-bedroom suite, single or double.

The seven-to-29-day daily rate for a studio is $219; the one-bedroom is $255; one- bedroom superior is $274; one-bedroom deluxe, $299, and the two bedroom, $459.

The rates for stays of 30 days or more are discounted further, between $10 and $59 daily, depending on the size of the suite.

Beekman Tower
Phone: (800) ME-SUITE or (212) 320-8018
Fax: (212) 465-3697
E-mail: www.mesuite.com

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