Wagner on the Battery
By Terry Trucco
Hotel operations are temporarily suspended.
At a glance: For nearly the first two decades of its life, the Wagner on the Battery was the Ritz Carlton New York Battery Park. Built from the ground up in 2001, it was ground breaking for a Ritz Carlton. Gone was the familiar, Old Boston Ritz Carlton look, the ball-and-claw furniture, marble-topped tables and gilded mirror frames. Streamlined, sleeked down versions of traditional materials and furnishings ushered in the 21st century. Honeyed woods replaced the dark wood stains, slipper chairs trumped fauteuils.
Funny what close the decades will do. Though elegant and well maintained, other hotels have followed its lead, and Wagner on the Battery looks more establishment than renegade. You don’t come here for surprises, especially visual ones.
Indeed, if you stayed here during the Ritz Carlton days, the only surprise is that not much has changed besides the name. The public spaces look fresh but unaltered —
Fortunately, the hotel has comfort nailed. Located at the southern tip of Manhattan in a millennial high-rise that’s part hotel, part condos, rooms are more spacious than many in midtown. Public spaces abound with a large, if oddly shaped ground floor seating area and plenty more seating on the mezzanine and in the spacious, and manly, bar. (There’s a palpable Wall Street vibe.)
Service is polished and professional; you feel like grown-ups, not frustrated actors, are running the show. Upon arrival on a quiet Saturday, I was pleased to discover I’d been upgraded to a room with a view of the Statue of Liberty. Double sweetened: a complimentary overnight shoeshine.
The property feels like what it is – a hotel. It’s not a neighborhood hub or a hot spot. Guests are travelers and, during the week, Wall Street people; the only locals I saw were attending a bar mitzvah. Furnishings look like hotel furnishings – solid and quietly stylish, not cutting edge designer items you’d see in Wallpaper. The restaurant and bar, while good, are more Cornell School of Hotel Management than Celebrity Chef. Yet the hotel is adept at what it does and serves as a reminder that sometimes a hotel that strives to be nothing more than a very good hotel is a very good thing.
Rooms: Three words came to mind upon seeing my room –spacious, comfortable and bland. Since bland can also be restful, it need not be a negative. You’ll probably sleep well and wake up ready to work.
A long hallway opened onto a large, carpeted sleeping area with a desk that made me feel like a captain of industry, boardroom-style built-ins for the dresser and LG flatpanel TV and a king-size bed, dressed in spotless white Frette sheets, that didn’t appear to swallow up too much space.
The showpiece was an enormous window overlooking the water – and the Statue of Liberty. It stormed the night I stayed. The view was dazzling nonetheless, though I was disappointed my room didn’t come with a telescope; some Liberty-view rooms do.
As for the silver and gold color scheme, what better way to welcome the Wall Street denizens the hotel attracts? The hall closet lighted up when the doors opened.
The spacious bathroom was equally impressive, with a generous stall shower that heated up instantly across from the large soaking tub. The toilet was discreetly situated behind a door. With blond wood galore and marble on the floor and atop the vanity it looked very 2001, ie slightly dated if you’re splitting hairs but well maintained nonetheless.
Though the room was quiet, I heard the wind whistle through the window (it was extremely stormy).
Food and drink: 2 West restaurant and bar are found at the rear of the lobby and overlook Battery Park (they’re on the ground floor so don’t expect breathtaking views). The bar and lounge is a congenial place, with TV screens broadcasting sports,bartenders who know how to mix serious drinks and a menu of pleasing bar food. My grilled chicken sandwich came on an olive roll with a salad laced with pecans. Though the bar was full, the restaurant, which has a stylish but pricey menu, was quiet on a Saturday night.
Amenities: The excellent fitness center is large and well equipped and, given its locale on a high floor, offers terrific views from the treadmills. A good-looking full-service spa with all the trimmings. Pets allowed under 20 lbs. Comp apple cider in the lobby in late afternoon; comp coffee in the morning. Comp shoeshine. Newspaper delivered to the room in the morning. Personalized wake-up call (we hate robo calls). Two little chocolates, one dark, one milk, and two bottles of water at turndown but no slippers or floor mats. Bathroom scale. Ritz Carlton bath products.
Surroundings: It doesn’t get much better than this if you want to visit Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, the New York Holocaust Memorial, the Museum of the American Indian or Battery Park, a small pleasant newish park that’s catnip to runners, walkers and baby strollers. The hotel is also well situated if you plan to hang out in Brooklyn or downtown Manhattan. But if midtown is your destination, the hotel’s location is out of the way.
Wall Street and the Financial District are walkable, but you need to enjoy walking. The nearest subway stop is several blocks away. An uptown bus stops directly in front of the hotel, but it comes every 10 to 15 minutes.
You’ll probably be taking lots of taxis. (fortunately, cabs line up outside the hotel). That said the hotel is convenient to lower Manhattan’s stylish neighborhoods, like Tribeca, SoHo, the Lower East Side, Chinatown and Greenwich Village. And the subway, when you get to it, will whisk uptown or down to Brooklyn in a wink.
Back story: The Ritz Carlton had the bad luck to open in 2001 shortly before the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, which stood not far from the hotel. But as the most luxurious property near Wall Street at the time, the hotel bounced back. In addition to Wall Street types, it’s popular with families (large rooms, good service) and visitors who want spacious luxury digs at a (slightly) lower price than midtown. The rooms were redone in 2010 — a long time ago. As mentioned above, in March 2018 the hotel became the Wagner on the Battery. Management has shifted in the ensuing years, ands it is currently part of Marriott’s Luxury Collection.
Keep in mind: The hotel’s southern-tip-of-Manhattan location may be too remote for guests planning to spend the bulk of their time in midtown (those taxis to midtown add up). The bathroom’s marble floor is slippery when wet, as I discovered the hard way.