By Terry Trucco
At a glance: This is it, the first of Starwood’s purposefully hip W hotels.
The now-classic W recipe — lobbies called Living Rooms, high-concept restaurants, pillow-top beds, Bliss spas and Gerber Group bars — originated, and still flourishes, here.
But though the hotel has been updated regularly, to my eyes W New York is outclassed by its stylish descendants.
The problem is room size; too many are way too small. That said, I like the hotel’s abundant public spaces, particularly the spacious Living Room lobby, with its glamorous plentiful club chairs and sofas and curtain of tubular lights the continually change color, easing from moody pastels by day into nightclubby magentas, golds and tangerines.
The adjoining bar — daytime coffee and snacks, night time drinks — makes this a great place to hang out, meet a friend, catch up on work (everyone’s wielding an iPhone or laptop) or just drink in the elbow room, especially sweet if you’re staying in a “Cozy Room.”
Keep in mind that though W New York calls itself a boutique, under its stylish surface it’s basically a large business, brisk, bustling and ready for action.
Rooms: Pay attention to the cutey-poo names. Cozies, the smallest, are really, really small and best for one person. Even the Superior, a notch above, is tight for two, with a queen-size bed and a clever, space-saving sliding bathroom door. Moving up a couple price notches, two people can think of sharing a room comfortably. And the glamorous little suite I saw, with a slick silver sofa and furry, disco-redux throw pillows that had me humming Donna Summer, was almost spacious with multiple windows and city views a la Rear Window (ask for a high floor).
Severely minimalist, rooms sport a flat panel TV mounted on a space-saving pol and stark white walls with accent walls (or ceilings). The wood headboards frame an arty daguerreotype of a nude.
Bathrooms have large, glassed-in stall showers, white pedestal sinks, white subway tiles and aubergine wallpaper with a surprising raised surface that was dust-free when I looked.
Cool detail: Hanger rods in the closets light up.
Food and drink: Heartbeat, the spacious hotel restaurant, was a groundbreaker when the hotel opened in 1998. But though the signature David Rockwell design — zingy yellow-orange colors; big round columns covered in cheeky glass tiles; glassed-in waterfalls — is still jazzy it’s looking dated. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served — American fare.
For lighter bites, the lobby bar serves bagels, Danish, coffee and juice at breakfast, switching to light snacks as the day progresses.
And Whiskey Blue, the hotel bar, is big and jumping, with a local crowd.
Amenities: Free WiFi in the lobby and rooms if you’re a Starwood Preferred Guest; otherwise it’s $16.95 a day in the rooms. Bliss spa. The fitness room, part of W’s Sweat line, is large and well equipped. Pets allowed ($100 the first day, $25 a day thereafter). The lobby shop sells a stylish — and not too pricey — sampling of clothes, shoes, candles, kids’ stuff and a great selection of vintage vinyl.
Surroundings: Prime Midtown East turf. Grand Central Terminal, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Chrysler Building, Saks Fifth Avenue and other Fifth Avenue shops, countless office buildings and the Museum of Modern Art are nearby. So are scores of restaurants and hotels (Waldorf-Astoria, the Benjamin, the Barclay Intercontinental and the Marriott, to name a few, are steps away). The Empire State Building and Central Park are easy to reach by bus or subway. And both bus stops are nearby and the subway station is almost on your doorstep.
Back story: Billeted in an old hotel building dating from 1930, this initial link in Starwood Hotels & Resorts W chain was quite an attention-grabber when it opened in 1998. The idea was to create a hip chain of boutique hotels designed to capture the late-20th-century magic generated by places like the Royalton.
The original template entailed an old hotel building that was gutted, updated and sleeked up with cool accoutrements like an uber-gym and spa with plenty of nightlife thrown in to attract a local crowd. But the chain now has nearly 30 links in 20 cities, including hotels, like the W Times Square, built new from the ground up. W New York’s rooms were refurbished in 2008 and public spaces updated in 2014.
Keep in mind: The house scent, a heady blend of citrus and Persian fig, hit me nose-on when I walked into the room. I like it — it’s a lot nicer than stale cigarettes — but if fragrance isn’t your thing, be forewarned. TVs are on when you first enter the room, tuned to the W channel: invigorating, earsplitting and not a bit soothing.