Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators.
Drawing class trips and budget-minded tourists, the 935-room Park Central Hotel is in an ideal location, but it can feel like a bustling airport terminal.
The lobby is littered with monitors. Automatic check-in kiosks and smart elevator touch-screens direct guests to the most efficient elevator (or at least attempt to do so). often stay at the Park Central, gathering in the lobby around clusters of wheeled baggage prior to departure. Other guests sit on leather benches in the center of it all, as if they're waiting to be called for boarding.
I stayed at the Park Central around spring break. Numerous class trips -- including 75 eighth-graders from Southern California and a gaggle of Gwen Stefani played in the background.from South Carolina -- were stationed there at the time. They added a suburban-shopping-mall feel to the place. Hormonal teens milled about or sat impatiently on the lobby floor waiting for messages from their leaders.
The décor is also mall-esque, with bold, clashing themes and colors throughout, from bold black and white tiles to . The Park Central tries to appear grand, but often its look is more chaotic and haphazard than stately. It also smells a bit. "Dental office" is the predominant scent, but I also caught whiffs of cheap coconut-scented cleaning products and leftover food in the halls.to to
With 935 rooms and just six small elevators (each can only hold about four or five passengers comfortably), getting guests up to their rooms is an ongoing issue at the Park Central. In 2008, it added a smart elevator system. Touch-screen monitors are stationed throughout the lobby and at elevator bays. Guests press the number of the floor they wish to go to, and the screen indicates the best elevator to use. It's a system that doesn't always work perfectly, but at least an effort is being made toward greater efficiency. While I never waited more than a few minutes for an elevator during my stay (the chaperones of the 75 eighth-graders let us cut in line), it wasn't uncommon to step out into the lobby and find a line 20 people deep waiting for the elevator. Hotel management says it is further upgrading the elevators to improve the situation.
Hotel staff is friendly and helpful in person, but good luck getting help over the phone.
Based on numerous TripAdvisor reviews, I expected a nightmare at but were pleasantly surprised. I arrived 15 minutes before the 4 p.m. check-in time (prominently stated on the hotel Web site), but that wasn't a problem. There was no line, and check-in was quick and friendly. I was even offered help to my room.
Once in that room, however, getting help proved difficult. Pressing the concierge button on our phone got me to an unnamed voice-mail box. Whenever I called down to the front desk -- be it for more towels, help with the Internet, or someone to fix our TV -- I inevitably had to be transferred elsewhere. It was a tangle of calls that reminded me of phoning a corporate behemoth like Time Warner Cable. Still, when I did request those towels, they were at my door in seven minutes.
But I had a tough time getting my TV fixed after it went on the fritz at 11 p.m. It took a half-hour for someone to come to the room. By that point, The Daily Show was over and I was falling asleep. As for the Internet, I was given a 1-800 number to call for tech support in setting up my connection. That resulted in an annoying $1.25 charge for the call on my bill at checkout, especially galling after I'd already paid $14.04 for the Internet itself.
Outside of the room, service was better. Friendly doormen jumped to attention, ever ready to hail a cab or help with bags. Bartenders in the Lobby Lounge were extremely friendly and helpful. They refilled my bowl of snack mix and offered suggestions as to where I might get a more filling meal.
Concierge service is outsourced to Continental Guest Services, the same company that provides concierge services to the Grand Hyatt, , Holiday Inn, and a number of other hotels in the city. The concierge station at the hotel is lined with framed Broadway posters and packed with brochures aplenty. Service has a corporate tinge: Printed forms are filled out for reservation requests, and the outsourcing factor and size of the hotel lend service an impersonal aura. But the concierge I spoke with also had an appealing, surly sweetness. She gave one Eastern European guest a motherly "tsk-tsk" for requesting reservations for 11 people at a hip downtown restaurant at 7 p.m. that night. She then went out of her way to make sure the guest knew how to get there.
Numerous negative reviews on TripAdvisor complained of poor service and rude staff when the hotel had air-conditioning problems during a heat wave in the summer of 2008. Everyone I encountered during my stay was friendly and helpful, though this is certainly a large hotel, where service feels quite corporate. At its best here, service is professional and efficient, but at its worst, and in extreme circustances like a New York heat wave with no A.C., it might lean more toward the uncaring and unhelpful -- or at least feel that way. Hotel management says engineering has fixed the air conditioning issue but declined to give further details.
Location, in addition to the relatively large, cheap rooms, is one of the main reasons guests choose the Park Central. On Seventh Avenue at 56th Street, it's just three blocks (and a very quick walk) south of Central Park, and a 12-minute walk to Times Square. You can walk out the main entrance, look right, and see the bright, chaotic lights of the famed square in the distance. The Broadway theater district is even closer. Broadway is just one block west, and most of the major musicals and plays are located a few blocks south, between 53rd and 42nd streets.
Carnegie Hall, the famed classical music performance space, is only one block away. Rockefeller Center, home to NBC Studios, is also just a short walk away. There, the "Top of the Rock" observation deck offers a view of the city from 70 floors up.
The closest subway line is the N/Q/R/W at 57th Street, one block away. The B/D/E at Seventh Avenue, the 1/A/B/C/D at Columbus Circle, and the F at 57th Street are also within short walking distance.
30 to 90 minutes from three airports.
New York City has three nearby airports: JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark (in New Jersey). Flying into JFK or LaGuardia is typically easiest and the least time-consuming. From JFK, it's a (one-hour) $45 flat-rate taxi ride to anywhere in Manhattan. From LaGuardia, it's about a (30-minute) $40 metered cab ride to Midtown Manhattan. Rides from Newark cost at least $40 (plus tolls) and can take more than 90 minutes. Don't forget to tip your driver 15 to 25 percent.
To save some cash, try the group shuttles that are available at all three airports for about $14 per person. For more information on the shuttles, go to Super Shuttle or New York Airport Service. You can also take public transit from any of the airports for as little as $7 per person, but travel can take up to two hours and involve a lot of lugging bags up and down stairs. For mass-transit directions right to the hotel, check out HopStop.com.
They're not fancy -- and bathrooms are pretty dirty -- but the rooms are big and the beds comfy.
At around 250 square feet, the best thing about my King Superior, the standard room, was its spaciousness. Standard rooms at fancy in the city are often half the size and barely able to fit a full-size mattress.
With cherry veneer furnishings, navy carpet, and impressionistic prints of Times Square, the décor is a bit cheesy by New York standards. But thankfully, there's no nylon bedspread.
The bed itself, made with bright white sheets of decent quality, was quite comfortable, and the pillows were wonderfully large and fluffy. All that was missing was a thick duvet, rather than the layers of sheets and thin quilt in its stead.
A large LG flat-screen TV is the only modern piece of electronics, and I was lucky. Some standard rooms just feature old-fashioned tube TVs. Two phones and an alarm clock flashing 12:00 looked like they were circa 1992. There was nothing provided that played music--no iPod dock or even an old-school radio. The TV features a wealth of basic cable channels, but it also randomly stopped working at one point during my stay. On-demand movies are available and range in cost from $10 to $16.
The square-shaped bathroom is comfortably sized, but mine was in need of a thorough cleaning. Mold and mildew sprouted all over the shower stall, and tiles were water-stained. The shower curtain had odd black marks on it. I also noticed tiny black granules in the sink.
My King Superior room's medium-size window looked out onto another building about 20 feet away, providing a bit of natural light but no view. Guests can pay another $60 or so for a "Times Square View" room; however, since that merely guarantees you'll have a window facing the square but not a higher floor, it hardly seems worth it. Higher floors are guaranteed by booking one of the hotel's "concierge rooms" for an additional $60 or so per night. Located on Floors 18 to 25, these rooms are slightly more spacious and feature flat-screen TVs (which some of the regular rooms also have), robes, and a coffee maker. None of the Park Central's rooms features mini-bars, but mini-refrigerators can be rented for $25 per day.
The Park Central has a large, nice gym located on the corner of the third floor. It has several large windows on two walls -- a welcome contrast to the small, windowless workout rooms I've seen at smaller, more expensive hotels. A huge shelving unit features a large flat-screen television and neatly rolled workout towels. Cardio machines -- five True treadmills, three elliptical machines, and two bicycles -- also feature individual televisions, and there are a variety of weight machines and free weights. There's also a gorgeous marble bathroom within just for workout bunnies.
A business center on the second floor offers six , but using it isn't cheap. Computer/Internet usage runs 35 cents per minute, and printing is 50 cents per page. A $5 minimum is part of the deal.
A number of conference rooms are also featured on the second floor, which is decorated in a style distinct from the of higher floors. With and reminiscent of the late '70s, the second floor is badly in need of an update. Those doing business there might feel as though they're caught in a time warp.
All rooms are big enough to accommodate a roll-away bed or crib, both of which can be rented for an extra $40 per day. Adjoining rooms are available and can be requested when booking, but they cannot be confirmed until check-in. The concierge service can arrange for baby-sitting, but it's not something it does often, nor does it have a single child-care agency it regularly works with -- a detail that doesn't inspire much confidence.
Like a popular suburban shopping mall, the Park Central Hotel has a bit of wear and tear and some sticky spots. The lobby floor is a bit dingy, the hall . Carpets are navy blue and textured -- the better to hide stains -- but rest assured they're still marred with . My used room service dinner tray sat outside my door overnight, despite my having called the designated number for pickup. My bathroom was in need of a thorough cleaning. Mold and mildew were quite present in the shower stall. The shower curtain had odd black stains on it, and I noticed dotting the bathroom sink. My room's desk also had a few chalky white spots on it, perhaps from a previous guest's beverage or, I hoped instead, a lingering cleaning product. Multiple TripAdvisor reviews also complain about spotty housekeeping.
Strange, strong smells fill the hotel. "Dental office" is the predominant scent, but I also caught whiffs of cheap coconut-scented cleaning products and leftover food aromas in the halls.are typically left out in the hallways and covered with blue covers that match the navy carpet when not in use. Judging by my observations, said cleaning carts could stand to be in use a bit more, but most guests, especially those paying less than $200 per night, seem happy enough with the hotel.
Still, even with the mildew in the showers and the dental office smells, the hotel doesn't feel unsanitary. It's far cleaner and more pleasant than other similarly priced hotels in the area, like the Milford Plaza, where it smells like the hotel is rotting from the inside out. The price, location, and room size at the Park Central make it easy for many to overlook the occasional stain and bit of mildew.
Basic American fare, like pizza, Buffalo wings, and steak, is offered in the hotel's unremarkable restaurant, Café New York. Despite the hotel's size, the small restaurant was nearly empty on a Thursday night when I visited. Most guests grab dinner elsewhere. There are a number of small delis in the surrounding blocks, and New York's famed "Restaurant Row" -- a stretch of 46th Street between Eight and Ninth avenues populated with a number of small, moderately priced restaurants -- is a dozen blocks away.
Café New York is slightly more popular for breakfast. There's a $25 breakfast buffet and cheaper a la carte options offered. Still, with a Starbucks next door and numerous cheap bistros in the surrounding area, better breakfast bargains can be had outside the hotel. Budget-minded foodies can grab a relatively cheap breakfast, and get a taste of famed chef Thomas Keller's baked goods, at Bouchon Bakery in the Time Warner Center, four blocks away. Fancy French pastries can be had for a few bucks.
The Café New York menu is also available via room service but only until 10 p.m. I had low expectations for the mac 'n' cheese but was pleasantly surprised. It arrived promptly, within 20 minutes, and elegantly, with a vase of fresh daisies and fresh rolls on the side. At $19, it didn't come cheap, but it was quite good and big enough for two. I ordered it extra crispy on the top; this translated to some of the bread-crumb topping so toasted that it was black, but hey, it was nice to see that they made an effort to uphold a special request.
I was also pleasantly surprised that the Lobby Lounge had Pilsner Urquell, a tasty Czech beer, on tap. At $7, it's a far cheaper option than the $14 specialty cocktails, which looked a bit sweet and seemed out of place in a hotel sports bar with college basketball playing on .
At 935 rooms, this hotel is huge, so don't expect sleek style or attentive service. It's not perfectly clean, especially in the bathrooms, but it's clean enough for many a tour group and budget-minded traveler. The price is right, the rooms are big, and the location -- between Times Square and Central Park -- is ideal.