by Jamie Tabberer

A lift – or in that delicious New York drawl, an ‘elevator’ – can say a lot about a hotel.

Being easily spooked, I usually detest them. Thus, any distraction is welcome, from music to low-lighting or a retro lift operator/baby-sitter.

So then, what to make of the 286-room Moxy East Village, and its very, very memorable lifts? At first glance, you’re greeted by glassy explosions of stars, so brightly-lit, they’re piercing. On closer inspection, you see they’re actually emojis – including the beloved poop emoji. Once you’ve processed this (‘What the actual…’), and made awkward eye contact with the other guests in what feels like a hall of mirrors, you’ve reached your floor.

Full marks on the distraction front.

Irreverent, fun and young, the clearly-defined Moxy brand follows the lead of sister hotels Moxy Times Square and Moxy Chelsea. Still brand spanking new since opening in September 2019 – the rooftop bar isn’t even finished yet – this is dependable and well-located stopover, minutes from Union Square, that won’t break the bank. Prices start at $179 (£138.12) per night, and that isn’t easy to find in Manhattan.

A timelessly smart, clean exterior, courtesy of Stonehill Taylor, is somewhat at odds with more daring design and decor from Rockwell Group inside. Not least in the lounge, where wacky features included a vast collection of 90s knickknacks. Among them VHS tapes, a Fisher Price cassette player and a skee-ball table that begs you to play with it.

The famously (or infamously) compact rooms, meanwhile, exploit space in inventive ways: fold-away furniture, bunk beds, flat screens HDTVs literally at the foot of your bed. My queen room covered 155 square feet and I didn’t feel cooped up, but people I know who’ve stayed with the Moxy in the past have felt differently. My advice: go with it, and don’t let your luggage explode all over the room, as that’ll make it feel even smaller. Space is lacking, but it’s worth it for the price point and the perks, such as fast Wi-Fi, rain showers and a Netflix connection: hallmarks of a truly modern hotel.

Meanwhile, the moody lighting and plush textures in the Alphabet Bar & Cafe is a Manhattan fantasy come true, and a show-stopping hanging wire sculpture by Edoardo Tresoldi in the absurdly glamorous Cathédrale restaurant is befitting of a five-star hotel. Elsewhere, the atmosphere and the service exudes easygoing cool.

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The East Village is one of umpteen gay playgrounds in NYC so there’s plenty to see and do on your doorstep. You simply must visit the Cock, a time-tested gay dive bar, and Big Gay Ice Cream – ‘like Ben & Jerry f***ed each other’, as my friend puts it.

But what really sets the East Village apart is its historical flavour: it’s the former stomping ground of actual, proper queer icons like Keith Haring, Andy Warhol and Allen Ginsberg. The latter, for example, lived at 437 East 12th Street for 40 years until he passed away in 1997. It’s also where Blondie’s Debbie Harry lived while working as a Playboy Bunny in the 60s (oh, to have been her roommate), and other famous former residents include Jack Kerouac, Jeff Koons and Madonna.

Gentrification has scrambled the countercultural spirit somewhat, so to get under its skin, a tour with an in-the-know local is good bet.

For more information, visit www.moxyeastvillage.com.