Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
A large hotel on the south side of Midtown West, the New Yorker attracts a healthy mix of business and leisure travelers -- but its past is more alluring than its present.
It takes some serious self-confidence to name your hotel the New Yorker. But back in 1930, when the hotel first opened and competition wasn't as fierce, the New Yorker was a city institution hosting silver-screen starlets and foreign dignitaries (more on this in History, below). A lot has happened since then, however, and since 2000, the New Yorker has been a less glamorous Ramada Inn property (its official, more cumbersome, name is "The New Yorker -- A Ramada Inn & Plaza").
Don't let that label put you off, however. Housing 912 rooms on several dozen floors of an iconic Art Deco skyscraper -- its architectural siblings are the Chrysler Building (built in 1930) and the Empire State Building (1931) -- the hotel's New Yorker identity still shines brighter than its Ramada connection. (At night it is a literal shine -- the monstrous red New Yorker sign at the top of the building can be seen from all over the westside of Manhattan.) The grand lobby, with its enormous chandelier, evokes its rich old-New-York past. And the hotel certainly embraces its roots: The sign at the entrance and the gold logo on the marble floors show that Ramada is happy to play a supporting role and let the hotel's venerable past take center stage.
Where does all that leave you? Probably on the fence, if rooms at the nearby Radisson Martinique are only $50 or so more (and if they're equal or less, jump at those instead). The similarly priced Holiday Inn NYC is also a better choice, but that's about 10 blocks away. The only other place in the immediate vicinity, Hotel Pennsylvania, is far inferior to the New Yorker, so if being close to Madison Square Garden is a priority, the New Yorker is a solid bet. If it's not, and you don't mind fighting the crowds in Times Square every time you step outside your hotel's front door, options abound 10 blocks north, like the Best Western President, the Marriott Marquis, and the Hilton Times Square.
Inconsistent -- though the range of services is on-par with most midrange New York hotels
Near Madison Square Garden and Penn Station (access to subway and Amtrak), in Midtown West
The New Yorker is on 8th Avenue, between 34th and 35th Streets, which puts it about eight blocks from one of the busiest intersections in the world, at 42nd and Broadway in Times Square. Those blocks make a big difference, though. While the neighborhood is hardly quiet -- it's a block from Penn Station, one of the busiest train stations in the country -- the area is significantly less touristed than its neighbor to the north, especially at night.
The neighborhood itself is a bit of a no-man's land. Some New Yorkers would call it the Garment District; others would simply designate it part of Midwest West. But the distinction isn't really important -- the boundaries of Manhattan's neighborhoods are always a little fuzzy. What's important is that you're within quick walking distance of a number of popular sites, including Times Square, the Empire State Building, and Bryant Park and the New York Public Library. And of course, Madison Square Garden -- home of the New York Knicks, Rangers, and many high-profile concerts -- is only a slapshot away.
30 to 90 minutes from three airports; plus shuttles and limos to the airport straight from the hotel (click here for info and rates)
New York City has three nearby airports: JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark (in New Jersey). Getting into town from JFK or LaGuardia is usually more convenient than from Newark, but travel times are heavily dependent on the time of day and traffic conditions. From JFK, a taxi to anywhere in Manhattan costs a flat rate of $45 and takes around an hour in average conditions. From LaGuardia, a metered cab ride to Midtown Manhattan costs about $40 and can take 30 minutes if traffic is light, three times that if it's bad. Rides from Newark cost at least $40 plus tolls and can take more than 90 minutes. It's customary to tip your driver 15 to 25 percent.
Those looking to save some cash can use the privately run shuttle buses that are available at all three airports for about $14 per person. Some will actually drop you off right at the New Yorker; they also leave from the hotel every hour. For more information on the shuttles, go to Super Shuttle or New York Airport Service.
Public transit is also available 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 stairways. For mass-transit directions right to the hotel, check out HopStop.com.
Small, but clean, bright, and newly renovated (2009)
You get the basics at the New Yorker -- a decent bed, plenty of light, a flat-screen TV, and a touch of style -- but no frills or pleasant surprises. According to the New Yorker's website, there are two types of basic rooms -- Metro and City View -- but really, they are identical except for the views. Both types come with queen beds and run small -- 135 to 150 square feet is cozy, even by New York standards. Rooms with two double beds are a bit bigger -- 240 to 260 square feet -- but whether you're sharing a bed or not, you better plan on getting intimate with your roommate. Aesthetically speaking, the rooms were renovated in early 2009, which is a huge plus, but other than gold headboards, the most creative touch is the complimentary stick of Burt's Bees lip balm.
Disappointing range -- and quality -- for a hotel this large
Apparently the recent multimillion-dollar renovation didn't extend to the amenities. The New Yorker's fitness center is one of the most worn, outdated gyms in the city. If you do want to brave the torn-up weight benches and old equipment, be sure to pick a good time -- there's only one treadmill, one bike, and one stair machine. As for other features, not much:
Nothing particularly kid-friendly, but it's a fine place for families
Rollaways (for a nightly fee) and cribs (free) are both available, but the standard (Metro and City View) queen-bed rooms are so small -- 135 to 150 square feet -- they won't fit. You'll have to book a room with two double beds, spring for a suite, or book two adjacent rooms to sleep a family any larger than two people.
Not an issue
Save for the gym, which has seen better days, most of the New Yorker was updated in February 2009.
The New Yorker boasts two restaurants, though "boasts" may not be the right word, as both are about as pedestrian as they come.
A past both illustrious and sordid
When the New Yorker opened in 1930, it was New York's largest hotel, with 2,500 rooms. (Today it has 912 rooms; the title now belongs to the Hilton New York and its 2,000 rooms.) It once employed 92 telephone operators and 150 laundry staff, who washed as many as 350,000 pieces a day. The barbershop alone, one of the largest in the world, boasted 42 chairs and 20 manicurists.
In the 1940s and '50s, the hotel was more than just a hotel. It hosted a number of popular Big Bands and celebrities, including Spencer Tracy and Joan Crawford. Even Fidel Castro stayed here. Its history has also veered into the sordid. The inventor Nikola Tesla spent the last 10 years of his life in near-seclusion in rooms 3327 and 3328 (you can stay there yourself!), where he also died. For more on this, check out this piece in the New Yorker magazine (no relation).
Finally, in 1975, three years after the hotel closed due to poor profits, the controversial Unification Church, led by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, purchased the building for $5.6 million and converted much of it into church space. Not until 1994 did it reopen as a hotel. Weird, wacky stuff.
The nice bright rooms, convenient location (next to Penn Station, 10 blocks from Times Square), and rich history make the 912-room New Yorker a reasonable pick for the price. But the hotel doesn't offer much -- just slow (but free) Wi-Fi and a small, outdated gym -- and the small standard rooms might feel a bit too cozy.
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