Interview with a Local: Frenchie Ferenczi, Director of Cultural Programming at The William Vale
As we mentioned in our Where to Stay in NYC & Brooklyn articles, there is no shortage of fabulous accommodations in Brooklyn, and one of our favorites is The William Vale. I came to know about our next interviewee, Frenchie Ferenczi, through a couple of fantastic events that I attended there.
How did you come to be the Director of Cultural Programming for The William Vale?
I was working at NeueHouse, as the Director of Cultural Programming, and one day I got connected to the partners of NoHo Hospitality Group; they had just signed on to do all the food and beverage at The William Vale (which was under construction at the time), and were looking to bring more than just F&B to the property, they wanted to bring in lifestyle as well. We met, we brainstormed, and before I knew it, I was commuting to Brooklyn every day, opening a 183 room hotel.
It’s an unusual position for a hotel. Can you tell us a little bit more about what you do as well as your background?
It’s such a funny title! Director of Programming sounds like a coding job, but Director of Cultural Programming sounds like a political role….I don’t do either of the above! My job is really about our experiential brand strategy—when people come on property what do they see/smell/feel/think? That question guides every decision I make. The core of my job consists of putting together a monthly calendar of events, that are open to hotel guests and the public. These range in topic from wellness, to music, to literature, to film, and beyond. Aside from that, I work across all departments to support them in ensuring that all guests are immersed in the brand we’ve built.
I hate to say this, but I got here by accident. My early career started in restaurants, after which I burnt out and traveled for six months, that led me to an operations role at NeueHouse, and there I truly started to learn what it meant to build a brand. Once I saw the impact that strong brand-building can have on a company, I shifted gears into NeueHouse’s programming department, desperate to learn more about how I could be a part of this. The excitement generated there, made me hungry to work a new project and build it from the ground up, which is why I was thrilled to join The William Vale.
What do you love about your job?
I love that I get to bridge the gap between being creative, strategic, and practical. I like to work at the intersection of all three. I also love that I am coming up with ideas, and then working to make them come to life. Above all, I am so grateful that I get to create unique experiences for people, that I like to think make a difference in their lives, or at least their day.
What’s been your favorite event so far?
Have you ever asked a parent who their favorite child is? That’s how I feel about this question!
What are some upcoming events or programming that people should look out for?
We’re working on some exciting winter time activations, we want to embrace winter rather than see it as a time to hunker down and hideaway! Aside from that we’re ramping up our wellness programming, and locking in some exciting philanthropic parters who will add another dimension to what we do.
As a native New Yorker, how do you think NYC has changed in the past 5-10 years?
Well, for starters the Upper East Side, is now considered ‘inexpensive.’ Truly though, New York has gotten rawer and rougher, everyone is part of the rat race—I mean every day starts with people racing each other up/down the subway stairs, and that sense of competition continues through the commute home. I revel in the change, I understand the drawbacks of losing our history, etc…but truly, New York wouldn’t be the city it is if it weren’t constantly evolving. It’s ironic that people recoil at the very thing that brought them here in the first place.
As you know, we are all about local … can you share a few of your favorites places in Manhattan (or Brooklyn, Queens, etc)? Perhaps we can break it down into favorite old New York and new New York spots?
Ok, well my favorite place in NYC hands down is Central Park–it’s where I learned how to ride a bike, cheered on friends in the marathon, and got engaged. My favorite part is the north part, where it’s quieter and the conservatory gardens are beautiful.
Places I like to eat: MAMO on West Broadway (full disclosure my fiancé is the Chef there, but its objectively fantastic), Ribalta, Via Carota, Prune, Black Seed Bagels, Barney Greengrass, EAT Madison, Sant Ambroeus (for coffee, croissants, and sandwiches).
Because I work in Williamsburg, I don’t spend much of my free time here (I try to save the commute for work days) but a couple of my go tos are: Hotel Delmano, Donna, Roberta’s, Glasserie, Bakeri, and The Brooklyn Star.
Can you share a favorite NYC moment?
It’s not a single moment, it happens often! When the PA on the subway is screeching and crackling, there’s this look on everyone’s faces—it’s almost like FOMO meets frustration—they want to hear the announcement (FOMO) and they’re hating the system (frustration). My favorite part about this, is when people make eye contact and commiserate over the MTA issues, it’s one of the few times New Yorkers connect with strangers.