Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel
Updated: Feb 20, 2014
atmosphere: hustle bustle
cool detail: one of the world's 100 tallest hotels
By Terry Trucco
At a glance: If any hotel is a metaphor for New York City’s dense population, it’s the Sheraton New York Times Square.
It always seems like a convention is going on somewhere in this enormous tower. I’ve never seen the lobby empty. And the masses passing through the immense revolving glass doors -- business people, sports teams, flight attendants, politicians, tourists – look like a sample crowd at JFK – or Las Vegas.
This is not the place to come if you’re a fan of boutique hotels and quiet little nooks. Still, in 2012 the hotel celebrated its 50th anniversary (it opened in September 1962 as the Americana, a bash, modern tower built in anticipation of the 1964 New York World’s Fair). And following a major refurbishment of all 1,781 rooms, complete with new bathrooms, the Sheraton looks poised to take on its next half century (ballroom renovations are next).
Part of its readiness is its generically traditional appearance. Though the Morris Lapidus tower channels the Mad Men era, the lobby’s quietly functional decor with wood-paneled walls and dark patterned carpeting is era-free. The Sheraton does not promise time travel like the Art Deco Waldorf or the New York Hilton, another ‘60s compatriot. Nor does it thrill.
Instead it offers mega-hotel efficiency and a superb midtown location. The lobby features a dark-wood bar, a bustling internet café and a street of shops including a jewelry store glittering with diamond rings. Unfortunately, the renovated Club Lounge, which serves up superb views, complimentary snacks and peace and quiet, is available to only to guests booking pricy Club Level rooms.
As for the the candy-striped carcass of the shuttered restaurant Avenue, a curious eyesore in the renovated lobby, I'm told it's destined to become a nightspot overseen by an outside developer sometime in the future.
Cool detail: At a 50th anniversary celebration the hotel honored three employees who started work when the hotel opened -- and are still on the job.
Rooms: They’re not cutting edge, but I doubt they are meant to be. Instead, the refurbished rooms look contemporary, comfortable and smart. You can go over a business plan seated in the wheeled leather chair at the stone-covered credenza that doubles as a desk (a wall-mounted flatpanel TV hangs above). Or curl up with a Kindle on the chaise by the window, a clever alternative to a club chair that can become an extra bed.
If you’re on a high floor, the shallow but sweeping 1960s windows may overlook the Hudson River or Central Park. (If you face a boring building from a low floor, shut the new striped floor-to-ceiling curtains that attempt to elongate those windows.)
The renovated rooms owe their more spacious look to a new, individualized climate control system that jettisoned the bulky below-the-window units. Some are in fact quite small but even the little ones have king-size beds -- and all feature the Sheraton "Sweet Sleeper" mattress, which is indeed sweet. For an urban vibe, the designers chose neutral colors, black and silver inflections, a pop of lavender and for wall candy, stylized photos of New York. And I liked the suite of small photos in matching frames, which doesn’t scream “hotel” like a single large image.
Bathrooms are still quite small – this is a 60s building – but look up-to-date with textured stone-covered wall coverings, sleek wash stands and new floors covered in large tiles.
Food and drink: Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in Hudson Market, a windowless square of a restaurant, adjoining the lobby. Food is straight up – salads, sandwiches, soups and chili. In the evening the restaurant morphs into Hudson Market Burger, serving eight strains of burger ($15) including one made with crab in lieu of beef, and an astounding varieties of sodas.
Links Café in the lobby near the internet center provides grab-and-go food all day. There’s also a lobby bar behind the internet café.
Amenities: A large fitness center with a wall of windows in the basement ($10 per use fee if you're not a Club Level guest). No spa but massages and personal trainers are available through the fitness center. WiFi ($16.99 for 24 hours); A RFID lock system means room temperature automatically shifts to an energy-saving control temp when a guest leaves the room. Guests who book Club Level rooms have access to the Club Lounge, a terrific facility on a high floor that offers a complimentary continental breakfast, comp snacks, comp evening hor d’oeuvres and free admission to the fitness center.
Surroundings: A superb location if you want midtown. You can walk to Times Square and the theater district (despite the name the hotel isn't literally in Times Square), Rockefeller Center, Fifth Avenue shopping and numerous Manhattan office buildings. The Empire State building, New York Public Library and Grand Central Station are walkable if you like to walk (and easily reached by subway or bus). Lincoln Center is 23 blocks north, easy to get to by subway or bus. And downtown Manhattan and the Financial District are a straight shot on the subway (the 50th Street station is two blocks away). Bus stops are also nearby. And taxis are plentiful on Seventh Avenue.
Back story: The hotel opened in 1962 as the Americana, a gleaming, modern, cement and metal tower by architect Morris Lapidus. As mentioned above, the hotel was built to house visitors to the 1964 New York World’s Fair, and from the start it was a player. Bold-faced names of the Mad Men era regularly passed through like Frank Sinatra, Count Basie, Rock Hudson, the ubiquitous Liz n Dick, the Beatles and countless politicos (the 1976 Democratic National Convention unfolded in the Imperial Ballroom).
American Airlines owned the aptly named hotel for several years at the height of air transport’s glamour before selling it to Sheraton in 1979. As part of Sheraton it became the first hotel in New York City with an 800 number. In 2012 the hotel completed its largest ever refurbishment, renovating every room (and bathroom) along with the Presidential Suite (an enormous duplex), a stylish Club Lounge and business suites with high-tech video conferencing.
Keep in mind: Service is generally efficient but can veer from warm to impersonal. Rack rate prices can be steep, but good deals are often available online when the hotel isn't sold out for a convention or event (see Comparison Shop).
What We Saw: