Top 30 New York Hotels: Readers’ Choice Awards 2021
Come back to when you arrived and give us a try. Why did this hotel grab your attention? If you’re coming from the JFK AirTrain, you’ll depart from Terminal 5 and walk through a series of corridors lined with commuters, loop through baggage claim, and end up in a seemingly boring elevator. Inside there are only two buttons: “1960s TWA HOTEL” and “PRESENT DAY JETBLUE”. Pressing the first one brings you to a quiet landing at the mouth of a long, carpeted tunnel. Lion fans might recognize it from Catch Me If You Can. At the other end, the hotel lobby: a voluptuous, undulating concrete structure that is widely considered to be one of the best-preserved examples of mid-century architecture today.
Tell us the history of this place. Completed in 1962 and designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen, who also designed St. Louis’s Gateway Arch, the original TWA flight center, was built in the midst of the ‘Golden Age of Flight’, but closed in 2001 when the airline became kaput. By this point, it had already been designated a New York City landmark (1994) and the Port Authority, various preservation groups, and JFK set about trying to figure out what to do with it. Ultimately, MCR / Morse Development’s Tyler Morse assembled a dream team of architecture and design agencies to transform the Flight Center into a 512-room hotel. Lubrano Ciavarra Architects have designed two brilliant new hotel additions; Stonehill Taylor oversaw the interior design of the rooms; INC Architecture & Design designed the 50,000 square feet of meeting and event space, much of it underground, and Mathews Nielson did the landscaping. At the heart of the complex is, of course, Saarinen’s masterpiece, which houses the lobby, check-in desks, restaurants, shops, a gym, and more.
Tell us about your room. Is he as legendary as the rest of space? First of all: thanks to epic magic involving layers of glass, the rooms are perfectly soundproofed. You won’t hear a thing: neither the booms when planes land and take off, nor the din of Ubers waiting to drop off passengers, nor the high-frequency beeps and bloops that are normally associated with an airport. But you will see all of this if your room faces the runway; otherwise you will be facing the Saarinen building – in any case the view is a victory. Beyond that, the rooms, which blend mid-century Saarinen designs and contemporary touches, are comfortable and well-appointed with no unnecessary extras – no frills, no luxury just for luxury. “With the TWA Hotel offering stays of just four hours, our design approach was very conscious of the fact that people might only be staying long enough to change clothes, take a nap or take a quick shower,” he said. said Sara Duffy of Stonehill Taylor. Traveler by e-mail. Even the absence of a traditional closet was a deliberate design choice: “The hooks on the walls are meant to accommodate only the essentials and to ensure that all personal effects are visible, making it more difficult for passengers to check in. ‘forget about their items,’ says Duffy.
How is the Wi-Fi? Wi-Fi is free in all public areas and rooms, but the quality was quite poor during our stay. We were kicked out several times and had to turn on the old mobile hotspot instead.
What is the gastronomic scene? Only at an airport can you happily enjoy burrata, sushi, and pizza all at once, without even wondering why they coexist on the same menu. But here the food is better than it gets, and so is the service, which is warm, knowledgeable and pleasant. The Paris Café, a Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant off the lobby, is a space of spectacular beauty teeming with classic mid-century modern furniture grouped by color (if you’ve ever dreamed of dining at a Design Within Reach, here is your chance). And near the main entrance, which once housed ticket counters, is a take-out food hall with vendors like The Halal Guys, Fresh & Co, and Playa Bowls. At the pool bar, which overlooks an active track, a TWA-branded infinity pool is a spectacular setting for cocktails and snacks. If you need a quick dose of caffeine, stop by one of the (many) Intelligentsia carts or the brand’s café, in front of the food hall. And if you fancy a stronger drink, visit the Sunken Lounge, which has been restored to Saarinen’s specifications or, better yet, Connie, a 1958 Lockheed Constellation (a huge old propeller plane) that has been rebuilt. and transformed into a cocktail bar.
Overall, how was the service? Typical of large new hotels, the service needs work. Some interactions were great; for example the front desk staff helped us figure out where our room was and even checked that our key worked before sending us on our way. The rooftop pool staff continually checked the status of our drinks and replenished the free snack mix without even asking (or judging). Other interactions weren’t that great; when we called the main hotel number to change the time of a reservation for a dinner at the Paris Café, for example, we were told to – direct quote – “try to show up early”. And no one really seemed to care that the Wifi wasn’t working.
Who are all showing up here? Pilots and flight attendants waiting for their next shift; besieged travelers eager to sleep in before their connecting flight; Instagram husbands take photos at the rooftop pool bar; and New Yorkers in awe of space after taking a day trip via the AirTrain.
What else in the neighborhood? The “neighborhood” is JFK. As the airport’s only connected hotel – and indeed a hip hotel, TWA blows the competition out of the water.
Is there anything you would change? The 512 rooms are split between the two new seven-story additions, each from a tube that originally led to the TWA starting gates – if that sounds confusing, so is the room numbering strategy. . Also, the Sunken Lounge could use some outlets – it would be a great place to catch up on email. The continuous clicking of the split-flap Solari card – rebuilt to replicate the original – got a little annoying after a while. (However, the delicious tunes of Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald didn’t.) Oh, and that Wi-Fi problem: because if there’s one thing an airport hotel should have, it above all, reliable Wi-Fi.
Tell us what we missed! The hotel is aiming for 200% occupancy, which means each room can apparently be booked twice in 24 hours. Suppose you land at JFK early in the morning and just need a nap, a meal and a shower, you can book a day trip from 7am to 11am, 8am to 8pm, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or from noon to 6 p.m. At 10,000 square feet, the gym is the largest hotel gym in the world. And the registration process itself is actually fun; you create your own keycard via a little iPad and, miraculously, it works.
Conclusion: is it worth it? The TWA hotel brings together various passions: aviation and travel, architecture and design, hospitality and gastronomic culture. It’s a unique chance to experience an iconic building in a whole new way. Plus, when it comes to airport hotels, let’s face it: this one is way beyond the norm.