3-4 blocks from only 3 subway lines, fewer than most NYC hotels
Part hotel, part hostel (with shared bathrooms), the Pod is pretty basic for business-focused Midtown East. But it's still not the cheapest hotel. Rooms -- those with their own bathroom -- also have free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, and iHome iPod docks. But they're tiny -- maybe the smallest in New York. For the price, opt for the Holiday Inn Sixth Avenue in far-hipper Chelsea.
Ultramodern design with techno piping through the hallway speakers, but guests range from young Europeans to middle-aged business travelers
Located in business-focused Midtown East, the Pod isn't located in an ideal spot for all-night action. But it's pretty low-key most nights, with a laid-back staff playing host to a diverse group of international travelers in a loungey setting.
The Pod's design is rigorously modern. Decorated with artwork by J.M. Rizzi, the lobby and hallways are visually striking, set in primary colors and adorned with broad-lined scenes of people socializing in the city. Furnished with mid-century modern inspired furniture and white circular tables, the lobby area looks like the posh lounge of a science-fiction movie. But it's relatively quiet most of the day, and most guests just head straight for the front desk or the elevators, many toting shopping bags from Chanel, American Eagle, or any of the other retail outlets within a 10-minute walk of the hotel.
In terms of subway access, the Pod is just down the block from the 6 train and a five-minute walk from the E and M trains. It's not quite as connected as the hotels in Times Square or other major transportation hubs, so getting anywhere in the city will likely mean one or two transfers, and a little more waiting.
For all-night fun, you'll have to head downtown (about 30 to 45 minutes on the subway, depending on how long you're stuck waiting for a train). Central Park is a 20-minute walk away, as is Times Square and the theater district.
New York City has three nearby airports: JFK, La Guardia, 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.
Most rooms are tiny, even by NYC boutique standards, but they're all clean and modern -- flat-screen TVs, rainfall showers, iPod docks, and free Wi-Fi.
The close quarters can feel like a novelty, but they aren't for the claustrophobic.
Starting at 100 square feet, the pod-style rooms are tiny, really tiny. They're about half the size of most NYC boutique hotel rooms, which most guests already find small. They might hold the title for smallest rooms in NYC. The Single Pod or the Bunk Pods have shared bathrooms. For a little more space -- and only a little more -- you'll have to upgrade to the Double Full Pod (two full beds) or the Studio Pod (a queen-size platform bed and a twin-size daybed).
Mercifully, the room was organized to maximize what space is available, to mixed effect. The bed frame contains drawers for clothing storage, and the closet area (it has no door and is more an "area" than a "closet") contained a single shelf that can accommodate several small carry-on bags.
The bedside table, air-conditioning unit, bed frame, closet-area shelf, desk, and window shutters were made of pale finished wood with black trim. The dark-gray carpet and dark blue bedcover absorbed a great deal of the room's light, making for a dim stay.
But features are modern -- free Wi-Fi, tiny 15-inch flat-screen TVs, and in-room iPod docks.
The thin walls failed to shelter me from noise. At 10:24 p.m., scraping sounds from the room across the hall were audible. Earlier in the evening, another guest's music, played at high volume, could easily be heard. Past guests have complained of noises ranging from "idle chatter" to "amorous activity."
In the bathroom, perhaps to enhance the feeling of space, the shower was separated from the sleeping area only by a pane of completely transparent glass -- not a lot of privacy. A translucent sliding door could be pulled over the window for privacy, but such a move would leave the toilet in sight. Similarly, the stainless steel sink was a few short steps from the bed. Towels, toilet paper, and a hair dryer were also stored within plain sight. Fortunately, the shower has a high-pressure rain-style showerhead. Unfortunately, the toilet didn't have much flushing power, and the lever-style handle was a bit tacky.
Thin: no ice machines, no gym, no room service, and no business center
Several features are notably absent from the Pod, another reminder that the relatively low price comes with relatively few amenities. A call for ice was met with the grave reply, "There are no ice machines in the building." There was also no gym, no room service, and no business center. The shared bathrooms further contribute to a sense of incompleteness. But as Rebecca Otengo, one of the guests I interviewed from Uganda, explained, the "modest" features are fair for the price.
Guests have access to a 14th-story rooftop terrace, which is pretty short for Midtown East, where the average building is at least 40 floors. The most exciting buildings to see are the tall yet unspectacular Citigroup Center skyscraper and the even less inspired Trump World Tower.
Not ideal for families -- the Pod is more of a youth hostel than a hotel.
The hotel doesn't offer any kid-specific features, and you'll have to upgrade to the Double Full Pod or Studio Pod if you want anywhere for the kids to sleep. They just won't fit in the standard rooms.
Home to renowned chef April Bloomfield's Salvation Burger
Although they share the same address, the French restaurant that flanks the Pod, Le Bateau Ivre, is separately owned and operated. The bistro-like restaurant offers a solid wine list and classic French dishes. The Pod 51 cafe, located off the hotel lobby, serves a daily breakfast (for a fee), which guests can take in the outdoor garden, as well as small bites and drinks later in the day.
Most notably, though, the hotel is where guests and non-guests can find April Bloomfield's much anticipated Salvation Burger, which opened in February 2016.