Friday, December 14, 2018

Where Manhattan’s Beloved Central Destination Donnell Library Once Stood: $500 Cocktails, $1,500 Ice Cream Sundaes, And Dining While Sitting On Coyote Pelts

The hard choices facing society: You could have your $1,500 ice cream sundae (left) or you five-story Donnell Library (right)
It’s a not so pretty please with a cherry on top . . .

. . . A $1,500 ice cream sundae–  And it’s plain vanilla!  OK, so it’s not supposed to be just “plain” vanilla; it’s supposed to be Madagascar vanilla.

Where do you get this expensive sundae?  At the Baccarat Hotel, which sits where the beloved central destination Donnell Library once stood in Manhattan, across from the Museum of Modern Art.

In November 2015, I wrote here in Noticing New York about the skewed priorities of selling that very substantial and important library for a pittance in a shrink-and-sink deal to replace it with a luxury hotel, luxury restaurants and luxury condominiums– See: Priorities To Be Replicated?: Private Luxury Now Abounding Where Former Donnell Library Stood, A "Replacement" Library Is Nowhere In Sight.  (The article was written on the 8th anniversary of the library’s sale.)

And the priorities at the time were very evidently those things that catered to the wealthy: The luxury hotel, the luxury condominium building, the luxury restaurant replacing the Donnell Library all opened more than year before the “replacement” library opened, that was a replacement the NYPL was too embarrassed to call Donnell as promised.  That replacement library opened almost nine years after the library’s sale.

If you want to see images, of the old Donnell vs. the “replacement” see Citizens Defending Libraries (I am a co-founder): Images and Links- The 53rd Street "replacement " for the Donnell Library to be opened Monday and What We Lost.

The luxury hotel in the building replacing the library is the Baccarat Hotel.  In the November Noticing New York article about these topsy-turvy priorities we wrote about the expensive dining to be had  the hotel’s Grand Salon whilst sitting on “coyote” pelt upholstered chairs.  The inadequate replacement for Donnell opened in June of 2016. . .

. . . That June is just when New York Magazine was advising readers they could blow their rent checks “on a single cocktail” by ordering a the new $500 Le Roi cocktail at the Baccarat hotel.  See also the $450 Sidecar Royal served in the Hotel’s Les Boissons bar (“The opulent New York City property is sticking to its roots with this new ultra-luxe libation”– what, it’s roots as a library?).

Previously, how very little the Library was sold for could be measured against what apartments in the luxury tower were selling for: The $60 million asking price for the penthouse was almost three times what the NYPL netted to sell the five-story, recently renovated, 97,000 square foot Donnell Library.  Other apartments were selling for close to exactly what the NYPL netted on its sale.  With “Le Roi” cocktails going for $500, it seems that the perhaps $23 million netted by the NYPL could be measured by multiples of the cocktail price.
Well, to keep up to date with extravagance, a new article in USA Today now advises us that you can get a $1,500 vanilla sundae at the hotel too!  See: USA Today: Gold popcorn and a $2,000 frittata: Five of the most expensive meals money can buy, by Rasha Ali, December 11, 2018.

The article provides us with a list of the most expensive (though simple) foods the wealthiest of us can foolishly spend their money on: a $5,000 burger, a $2,700 pizza pie, $2,500 for popcorn (a 6.5 gallon tin), and a $2,000 frittata.
Yes, from USA Today, that's a picture of a $1,500 ice cream sundae you can get where one upon a time there was a grand public library.

About the $1,500 ice cream sundae it says:
It's literally just vanilla bean ice cream, dressed up in fancy accessories. The ice cream is served at the Baccarat Hotel New York and is made with vanilla imported from Madagascar (fancy).

It's also served with black truffle crumble with dark chocolate, hibiscus champagne sauce and donned in an edible gold leaf, then served in a $1,200 crystal bear.  The ice cream alone costs $300, but if you want the whole ensemble, it'll cost you $1,500.
The last visit to the 53rd Street Library that “replaced” Donnell this is what we noticed: The architect had designed the front entrance with two separate doors, one east, one west, for library patrons to enter before they descended to the library’s mostly underground space–   One of those doors, the west one, was closed off so that library patrons didn’t come too close to rubbing shoulders with those well heeled chums and chumettes visiting the luxury portions of the building for $1,500 ice cream sundaes.

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