It's not the tallest hotel in Manhattan. Not even close. Nor is it in a particularly impressive neighborhood—a ramshackle strip of the Lower East Side in the gawky-adolescent stage of gentrification. Yet the 21-story Hotel on Rivington has something to surprise the most seen-it-all travelers: a brand-new three-level penthouse with a view unlike any other hotel's in the city. Even the fireplace, rooftop terrace, and outdoor Jacuzzi for eight play a supporting role to what's outside the floor-to-ceiling windows. Look north to the East Village and then up to Midtown's skyscrapers; south to Wall Street and beyond it the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to Staten Island; east and west to great swaths of Brooklyn and New Jersey. Because the hotel is surrounded by five-story apartment buildings, the suite has unobstructed 360-degree sight lines of a New York many people have never seen.
The owners, Paul and Rena Stallings, have turned juxtaposition into a form of currency. At Thor, the downstairs restaurant headed by Austrian Kurt Gutenbrunner, the interior couldn't be more modern. But its sleek banquettes and Marcel Wanders chandelier are countered by a picture window that looks onto a turn-of-the-last-century tenement, its fire escape lit for maximum West Side Story effect. There's a similar contradiction in the penthouse. At night the far-off neighborhoods put on a mesmerizing light show. The next morning your eye moves downward to the trucks coming off the Williamsburg Bridge, the remains of partially demolished buildings, and way below, an old couch somebody dragged to his roof. This is New York, the seedy and the sublime. It's impossible not to stare. $5,000. At 107 Rivington St.; 212-475-2600; hotelonrivington.com.