On a recent mission to find reasonably priced hotels in Manhattan, I was pleasantly surprised...
When I think about living in Manhattan, my vision does not include a 250-sq ft. 3rd floor walk up for $3k per month in Hell's Kitchen; rather, it is a 2b2ba, hardwood-floored, high-ceiling'd apartment with a view, located in a graceful building on a wide, quiet street. Last week I came close to the dream by staying in a small hotel on W 79th and Columbus called Park 79.
Gazing up at the front portico, the former apartment building is surrounded by grand architecture on tree-lined West 79th street. Fantasies emerged of what might lay inside... my perfect pied-a-terre. In reality, the hotel is not glamorous but the rooms are clean, comfortable and incredibly reasonable at $159+ per night. The bath felt brand new and was stocked with amenities - more than I expected at such a small property. A simple front lobby and incredibly accommodating staff provided a low key vibe that made me feel right at home. Park 79 is a lovely hotel for travelers wanting to experience a calmer, quieter Manhattan yet be close to great restaurants (Jacques Imo, Arte Cafe) and bars (Evelyn Lounge, Prohibition); or for locals who are tired of the downtown Soho House-Gansevoort-Bungalow 8 scene. On a balmy summer night, it is the perfect neighborhood to relax in.
The following night I moved myself to a completely different neighborhood, perhaps in a moment of temporary insanity - Times Square. Think: sweaty, humid, summer heat; a swarming tourist season and loud theater traffic. And it was garbage day.
Times Square is not a neighborhood I frequent. I spent plenty of time there when I was young and underage (fake IDs accepted)... it was dirty & crimeridden then and it is a neon-corporate-branding nightmare now. It is also the neighborhood where Hotel QT is located and I was intrigued. The vision of Andre Balazs (The Mercer, Chateau Marmont, The Standard), how could such a hip place exist in the heart of the city and be affordable?
Set in the middle of W 45th street with a bright orange and white sign, the hotel appears to barely fit on the block, it's so small. The lobby and front desk act as a newsstand so while you're checking in you can pick your poison (Sapphire Gin? Bikini for the pool? Trojans?). Front desk girls are gorgeous, of course, styled to complement the hotel decor and once you've got your room key, you're handed a card that informs you of the evening happenings on property. Most incredible is the pool that sits in the middle of the hotel, propped up in a glass room like a sculpture to be admired from every vantage point; while waiting for the elevator or chilling at the bar, you can watch the beautiful people get wet (theoretically, anyway).
Room 1401 was the size of my bathroom at home, but no matter - the design is so smart and efficient, I immediately understood it. The bed, situated on a platform with storage underneath, took up 50% of the space and overflowed with a huge comforter and pillows. A plasma television sat on the wall at the end of the bed and a small table with chairs occupied the rest of the space in the room. With a mini fridge in the closet, a lovely overhead shower in the bath and a rate of $169 per night, Hotel QT fit just right.
I felt I'd found two perfect city crash pads, each one telling a different New York story... until I left Hotel QT and noticed a curious building across the street... a gothic-looking structure, painted completely black with gaslights burning over the entrance. I couldn't figure out what it was, so I inquired at the QT front desk and was told that it is the Night Hotel. Sounds a bit scary, but I think I'll take the dare on my next overnight. If you must get into trouble...