Prince of the City.

Written by

Maddie Dinowitz

Photographed by

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New York’s Park Lane hotel, located just steps away from Central Park, recently underwent a renovation. The hotel, aimed at being an inclusive approach to luxury, now boasts Darling, advertised as "the only rooftop lounge on Billionaires' Row," as well as other new dining options, and revamped rooms and suites, many of which face the park. Park Lane New York ensures a comfortable experience for guests, with a gym, business center, and roomy common spaces. They also offer event halls—serving needs from corporate gatherings to weddings—which include their ballroom and their tree-lined courtyard, providing both indoor and outdoor entertainment options. Other than Central Park, the location allows easy access to shopping and restaurants, and key sites like Carnegie Hall, Rockefeller Center, and Broadway. The renovation, which debuted to the public last fall, was thanks in large part to hospitality professional Prince A. Sanders.

From a career as a professional ballet dancer to becoming the managing director of the Park Lane New York hotel, it seems Sanders was destined for a career in hospitality. After taking a position as W Hotel’s Front Office Manager, Sanders’ career in hospitality took off. His charisma and natural talent in this industry led him to become the Front of House Manager at the Ritz Carlton and eventually the General Manager of Trump International Hotel & Tower. Throughout his career, Sanders has broken down barriers being the only African American General Manager of a Forbes 5-star hotel with a 2 Michelin-star restaurant. Coming into the position as the General Manager of Park Lane New York, Sanders is the only African American General Manager on Billionaire’s Row. His desire to make guests feel comfortable and at home has enabled him to improve the luxury hospitality scene and win awards such as the Leader of the Year award in 2010. During his time at Park Lane New York, Sanders was crucial in the hotel’s recent renovation, creating a hotel that balances luxury with comfort and stands out in the hospitality industry.

Flaunt sat down with Sanders to discuss the Park Lane renovation, the importance of hospitality, and how the luxury hotel experience has changed since the pandemic.

Image courtesy of Max Burkhalter.

What inspired you to enter the hospitality industry?

Well, I stumbled into hospitality if you will. My first act was as a professional ballet dancer. After sustaining a career ending injury, I was faced with finding a way to reinvent myself. I had been dancing since a very young age. And as I started to search for my next career, I found my way into the hotel industry, which at the time seemed temporary. Yet as I began to learn the operations of the hotel, I realized that I could take my skill set as a performer, my passion for creating unique experiences for others and my love for engaging with a diverse group of people, into the world of hospitality.

Images courtesy of Michael Kleinberg.

How does your vision for Park Lane maintain the hotel's connection to New York's past and present?

As a native New Yorker, I have always had a love for the city and have considered myself New York centric. One of the most exciting elements of this project was creating a story for Park Lane that offers a subtle nod to the past but launches the hotel into a reimagined future. The whimsical design was intentional. The inspiration was a blend of Central Park and SoHo. In curating the food and beverage experience, we invite our guests to discover the energy of downtown’s culinary scene starting with Harry's New York Bar, that in the evening is reminiscent of an old school speakeasy. Darling, our rooftop lounge, is a secret garden nestled on the 47th floor of the hotel. Our guests find themselves immersed in views of New York's most iconic buildings and jaw dropping views of Central Park.

How do you see the concept of a luxury hotel experience changing in a world emerging from the pandemic?

The wonderful thing about the word ‘luxury’ is that it means different things to different people. From my point of view, luxury is a feeling, rather than a rating. I focused on features and amenities that felt valuable to me as a traveler rather than check off the boxes of what could establish us as the traditional luxury property. I wanted to ensure that our offerings were meaningful to a modern luxury lifestyle traveler. Those traveling in a world emerging out of the pandemic are seeking experiential - rather than transactional - hospitality. That’s why we invested and committed to curating eclectic and diverse programming focused on the arts, to provide guests with not just a hotel stay but an experience.

What differentiates Park Lane from other hotels?

Having worked around the Central Park area for more than a decade, I struggled to find a place where I truly belonged. It was as if I was an appropriate individual to serve around the park but never one to engage in or to be served. It was important to me that I create a space on Billionaire’s Row that was inviting to all. I wanted this to be a place of comfort and sanctuary for any individual that walked into one of the neighboring establishments and felt underrepresented or unseen.

What was your vision for Park Lane when renovating the hotel?

Billionaire’s Row is historically known for traditional hospitality design and experiences. It was clear to me that we would not be able to compete with the history of the phenomenal properties in our neighborhood. This transformation began with identity. Being across the street from Central Park and with the word ‘park’ in our name, location was the easiest place to begin. We partnered with world-renown designers Yabu Pushelberg, who used Central Park as their inspiration to create a whimsical setting that allows travelers to continue enjoying the magic of the park as they travel throughout the property.

What do you hope people staying at Park Lane will experience and take home with them?

I wanted to create a place where guests could enjoy a curious design aesthetic, wonderful culinary experiences, unique nightlife and personalized service. When guests return home, I want them to think back to their stay, and say “this is our place”.

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