By Terry Trucco
At a glance: This is as close as you can be to the East River without falling in.
The moderately priced Bentley — a 21-story, brown-tinted glass box grafted onto the side of an animal hospital — stands next to the river and gazes onto the iconic 59th Street Bridge (night views from the rooftop bar are drop-dead). It’s an oddball location if you’re planning to sightsee, shop, go to the theater or feel hip. But it’s superb if you’re in town for medical reasons — Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York Presbyterian-Weill Cornell Medical Center and Rockefeller University are a short walk away.
The cool, modern lobby isn’t as spectacular as the view, but it’s efficient good looks come from furniture in vibrant hues (crimson-coral velvet slipper chairs, a long tufted sofa in pearlized leather). With plenty of places to plop with your phone, the lobby is clean and comfortable, like a big mid-century living room, ca 2009. (Like much in the hotel, it’s showing its age and looks worn around the edges.)
I watched a stylish mom in stilettos shadow her toddler, who climbed onto a big chair and clearly felt at home. But the suits scrutinizing phones and tablets looked equally at ease. A windowed wall wears floor-to-ceiling sheers emblazoned with a stylish coral stripe, the better to blur the view of the gas station next door.
I like the lobby’s silver-leaf chandeliers (they’d make great-looking earrings). And the Lobby Bar serves coffee, tea, cocktails and light bites is an airy, inviting necessity (you won’t find many coffee shops this far east).
Rooms: Spacious by New York standards, the smallest are plenty big for two, and the prettiest are adorned with wrap-around windows overlooking the city and the bridge. Following refurbishments completed in early 2009, creamy beige walls are paired with whipped cream-white beds dressed in Frette linens and framed by tall, white woven-leather headboards and zebra-patterned rugs.
I liked the brown leather-topped desk opposite the bed, hiding a mini-bar and topped with a flat-panel TV, and the contemporary club chair and footstool by a Roman shade-sheathed window. Bathrooms, clad in green marble, have pedestal sinks and tub/shower combos shielded partially with glass slabs instead of a fabric curtain (yes, the floor gets wet). The view was spectacular from the 18th-floor room I saw; too bad the window needed washing.
Food and drink: The Rooftop Restaurant and Bar, renovated in 2014, looks better than it once did and boasts wraparound windows with spectacular views, especially at after dark. It’s open for dinner seven days a week, but hours are erratic.
Amenities: IPod docking stations in the rooms. WiFi ($14.95 a day). Complimentary coffee in the lobby library. No fitness room in hotel, but guests receive a discount at Strive Fitness Center, a nearby gym. Pets allowed for a fee. C.O. Bigelow toiletries.
Surroundings: This is the far, far East Side, and depending on what you want to do, the Bentley’s location is either moderately convenient or a real pain. It’s steps away from the 59th Street Bridge, the famed ice cream parlor Serendipity 3, neighborhood restaurants (we like the homey Ritz Diner) and a cluster of antiques and design shops. The Roosevelt Island tram depot is nearby as are Rockefeller University, Memorial Sloan- Kettering Cancer Center, the Weill-Cornell Medical Center and on a cheerier note, the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum, set in a small but charming 18th-century house.
But East Side attractions like Bloomingdale’s and Fifth Avenue shopping are a hike. Fifth Avenue museums, including the Metropolitan and the Guggenheim are an even longer trek, as are Broadway theaters, Lincoln Center and anything downtown. And while taxis and buses are fairly easy to come by, the nearest subway stop is five long blocks away.
Back story: The Bentley’s 21-story slim glass box began life as an office building and became a hotel in 1998.
Keep in mind: To repeat: the subway — and most popular visitor sites — are a big-time schlep. Crossing busy York Avenue (in front of the hotel) can be treacherous. For the best views, pick a room facing south. And as mentioned above, the hotel is clean but looks worn.