Simple and Serviceable: Crowne Plaza HY36 Midtown Manhattan
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To The Point
HY36 seems to be a new, hipper direction for IHG’s mid-tier business brand, Crowne Plaza. Pros: delightful staff, nice room, central location. Cons: outside construction noise and traffic.
New York is experiencing a hotel boom these days, with new properties opening right and left. Though I was actually supposed to stay at the new Moxy Downtown for a night in late October, my reservation was canceled a few weeks out when Marriott realized that the hotel would not, in fact, be open by the planned date. With a few weeks left, I looked at my other options and settled on the new Crowne Plaza HY36 Midtown Manhattan, which opened with 251 rooms in January 2018.
My stay in New York was actually for two nights, but I wanted to split them up so I could check out two different hotels. That turned out to be a good thing, because, for the night of Sunday, Oct. 21, rates at the HY36 started at $232.
For the following night, however, they jumped to $387! Award rates were available for either night, at 50,000 points for an outright redemption, or 40,000 points plus $70.
I decided just to book the first night. However, I had gotten an American Express offer for a $50 one-time statement credit using my enrolled Amex card when I paid a minimum of $250 on room rate and room charges by Nov. 30. So instead of booking the regular king leisure nonsmoking room for $232, I booked the slightly larger king superior nonsmoking room for $251, which qualified. Barely. By spending the extra $19, I saved $50 and got a nicer room.
I paid with my Amex EveryDay card, which earned 1.2x points per dollar since I regularly earn the 20x monthly transaction bonus on it and was registered for the $50 discount.
I flew into New York LaGuardia (LGA) at 4pm on a Sunday and took a taxi to the hotel. The ride lasted about 45 minutes because of afternoon traffic and construction on the streets around the hotel. It cost $46.
The hotel was on W. 36th Street between Eighth and Ninth avenues, a short walk to both Penn Station and Times Square. The Hudson Yards development will open nearby next year. Read: There were lots of tourists and commuters at all times of day and night, and a lot of construction going on. A number of other midtier chain hotels lined the surrounding streets as well.
The façade of the building was quite dramatic, with multistory windows framing cascading, orb-like chandeliers. It looked really nice lit up at night. I also liked the small neon sign by the front door that made it feel like a throwback club entrance.
The building was designed by Stonehill Taylor and took New York landmarks as its inspiration. Manhattan’s iconic bridges, for instance, were reflected in the suspension-style cables over the entrance.
When I walked into the lobby, there was a huge group of travelers checking out and waiting for Ubers, so I had to weave my way through them to the front desk, where two agents were on duty. Both were smiling and welcoming. The one I checked in with asked for my ID and credit card and joked about why I’d left sunny, warm California (based on my license) to visit New York during a cold snap.
She also immediately thanked me for my loyalty as a Platinum elite, handed over two bags of chocolate-covered raisins as a welcome gift, and asked if preferred 600 bonus points or two drink vouchers to use at the restaurant or the winter-garden bar out back. I said I preferred the points, but asked if the winter garden would be open that evening. She thought so, so she gave me two drink vouchers anyway, which were good for beer, house wine or house mixed drinks. She also informed me that my room was on the 27th and top floor, so it would be nice and quiet and have a good view.
Two other things about the lobby: The design was more sophisticated and urban than other Crowne Plazas I’ve been to. There were nods to New York architecture in particular, like concrete columns and subway-style tiling. Also, behind the desk was a small store counter where you could purchase snacks and toiletries in a pinch.
I walked around the corner to the elevators and headed up. On the way, I noticed a sign in the elevator designating the 14th through 15th floors as quiet zones, so if you want some peace and calm while you’re here, ask for a room on those floors.
My room was near the elevators, but not close enough to be bothered by the noise.
It was small, but not depressingly so, which can sometimes be the case in New York. I’d put it at around 200 square feet.
To the left of the front door was a tiny closet. Like, really tiny, with just enough room to hang a few clothes and two shelves. It also held an empty mini-fridge.
The bathroom was to the right behind a sliding door. The vanity consisted of a single sink, an illuminated mirror and magnifying mirror.
Opposite was the walk-in shower with glazed white tiling and both handheld and wall-mounted shower heads.
The bath amenities were by Temple Spa, an upscale brand.
There was also a packet of Temple Spa bedtime amenities out on the bed, including an aromatherapy mist, foot balm and skin cream.
Out in the main room, the king bed was dressed in simple white linens and had a backlit wooden headboard.
One nightstand held a clock and a power panel with outlets and USB ports. The other had a telephone and more power ports.
Along the opposite wall was a small bench that I used to lay out my suitcase, a desk with drawers for clothes and the safe (plus more power outlets), and a wall-mounted flatscreen TV.
There was a Keurig coffeemaker with pods of regular and decaf coffee and Celestial English Breakfast tea.
Wi-Fi was free and worked decently fast.
I also agreed with the receptionist — the view out the floor-to-ceiling windows facing to the north, one of which opened for fresh air, was pretty nice.
And it was fun to watch the street below. The noise from construction did come through in the morning, but it wasn’t extremely loud. I imagine it would have been much worse on lower floors.
Food and Beverage
While still in my room, I perused the room-service menu. Breakfast was available from 6:30am to 11am. The menu included items like oatmeal, cold cereal, fried chicken and waffle sliders, avocado toast and steak and eggs. The all-day menu was available from 11am to 11pm and had dishes like a Caesar salad and a variety of flatbreads. Dinner items from the grill were available from 5pm to 11pm, and included dishes like three-cheese risotto, grilled salmon, a few cuts of steak and New York cheesecake. Finally, there was a short late-night menu from 11pm to 6am. The five options included a chicken wrap, pasta salad and a selection of chips.
I popped back down to the ground floor to see if the winter garden out back was open, but because of the cold, they did not serve drinks out there that evening.
The hotel’s main bar and restaurant was called TGA and was like a high-end sports bar with games on all the TVs. Up front was a long bar.
Behind that was the dining area with booths and two- and four-tops.
I did not eat here, since I had plans with friends, but the menu included items like grilled shishito peppers, jumbo lump crabcake, mac and cheese, beet salad with arugula and goat cheese, tuna tartare with avocado, paella, meats from the grill, pizza and chocolate cake. It basically seemed like an American-European-Asian-fusion grab bag.
I came down for breakfast the following morning and ordered the avocado toast with (over)poached eggs on top for $20. It was not great. The avocado seemed like a spread of premade guacamole, the eggs were cold and the toast was like a dense, seedy wheat, so I didn’t finish it. There was also a small breakfast buffet up front, but it didn’t look tempting.
Despite the food shortcomings, I will say the staff members were all very nice and accommodating, coming by to refill my water and coffee and generally checking in to see how everything was going without being overbearing.
The two other main amenities at the hotel were the gym and the business center. The gym was down on the sixth floor. Though not large, I thought it was rather nice and well-equipped. There were Peloton bikes, Woodway treadmills, LifeFitness ellipticals and a bunch of free weights, though not many weight machines. It was getting a lot of use during my visit.
There was also a corner with a water fountain where you could refill bottles and pick up chilled towels.
The “business center” was more of a little living room behind the lobby. I did not get a great photo of it because people were using it and it was rather dark. However, one side consisted of a wooden table around which colleagues or a family could sit while watching TV, and a printer.
The other side had armchairs and a small sofa for more casual gatherings. It was interesting on a few levels. Clearly, Crowne Plaza is putting more of an emphasis on wellness and public spaces, but it is still obviously geared toward business travelers who might only use a lounge like this occasionally rather than freelancers or younger workers who might treat it as an all-day workspace.
HY36 seems to represent a more contemporary, thoughtful direction for the previously bland Crowne Plaza brand. This location, in particular, highlighted its New York roots with design touches both large and small ranging from the striking façade to the bathroom tiling. My room, though basic, still felt sophisticated, and the soft amenities like Temple Spa products were nice to see.
While I felt I got my money’s worth for $250 a night in Manhattan, I would not have booked it for $400 the following night. Though I did not order dinner at TGA or from the room-service menu, I was impressed with the variety of dishes. Breakfast was disappointing but not terrible.
I’d also like to call out the excellent, friendly service I got from everyone I interacted with, from the check-in agents to the bar staff to housekeeping. Everyone was cheerful, happy to help if I had any questions, and made me feel like a valued guest. And when it comes to hotels and loyalty, what more could you want?
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