There are only a handful of hotels in Manhattan that have completely unobstructed views of Central Park. Only one or two of them present views of the entire park, including all of Fifth Avenue and Central Park West above Central Park South—looking all the way north to Harlem and beyond. Last week we stayed in one of them. And the service we received was as extraordinary as the view.
Construction on the 46-floor Helmsley Park Lane began in 1968 and was competed in 1971. Designed by Emery Roth & Sons, for the New York City real estate developer Harry Helmsley, the hotel is currently operated by Steve Witkoff’s real estate investment firm, the Witkoff Group.
Under Leona Helmsley’s (“Only little people pay taxes.”) direction, the Park Lane was positioned to attract a newly-defined class of mid-century business travelers who appreciated high-end luxury hotels. Other new hotel construction of the era—in Manhattan—was primarily designed, constructed, and marketed to attract the mass-market, convention trade. The New York Coliseum, the massive convention magnet of the time was just two blocks away from the hotel, on Columbus Circle.
When it opened, the Park Lane had serious, long-established competition for the affluent traveler market. Nearby, within two blocks west or north, were several notable, old-world hotels that were built to cater to the area’s prosperous visitors. They including the Essex House (Frank Grad, 1930), The Pierre (Schultze & Weaver, 1930), the Plaza Hotel (Henry Hardenbergh, 1905-7), and the Sherry-Netherland Hotel (Schultze & Weaver with Buchman & Kahn, 1926–27). In contrast to their classic poshness, the Park Lane was modern, glossy, glamorous, and marketed itself with all of the bravado that the mad men of Madison Avenue could muster.
I was going to theatre school at the New York Academy of Theatrical Arts on East 57th Street when the Park Lane was being built. After it was completed, I’d walk past the hotel late at night—on my way home from work at Bankers Trust Company—and marvel at the massive crystal chandeliers and warm golden glow from inside. It was a peek into a world of luxury that was hidden during the day by the windows of outwardly facing, black reflective glass. Sometimes, I’d pause to watch a party getting into one of the limousines parked in front. Or into a horse-drawn handsome cab that had been summoned by the doorman.
But, over the past 40-some years, despite dozens and dozens of trips to New York, I’d never stayed at the Park Lane. I’m not sure why.
Sergio checked us in at the front desk; he made us feel like we were two of the hotel’s most important, most valued guests. (And, as a side-bar, he was pretty easy on the eyes.)
As we got into an elevator—there are six—we wondered if the room would match the photo on the Park Lane’s website. It did in every way.
Some of our observations, if you’re considering a stay these may help you decipher some of the mixed reviews on travel sights:
- Book directly with the hotel. They will match or beat any online price and you are speaking with the actual staff who will take care of any special requests.
- In keeping with the hotel’s original positioning, there are no ice makers on the floors. There’s a note on the desk when you arrive that reads, “Press #4 on your phone for ice.” In less than five minutes, it arrives in a silver bucket at your door—anytime of the day or night.
- Your housekeeper—we had the same lady for our entire stay—will be personable without being overbearing. If you make eye contact with her in the hall, she’ll ask if your stay is what you expected and how she might help make it better.
- After you close your door your room is absolutely silent. No next door room sounds, no hallway sounds.
- Contrary to many online reports, the AC and heat are independent and completely at your control. You can turn the AC down to 58 degrees if cold is your thing.
- The windows open approximately 10 inches. Fresh air and city noise at night can be nice.
- There is a small refrigerator in the middle of the bureau at the foot of the bed. We mentioned to the housekeeper that it didn’t seem to be getting cold enough. Without saying anything she had it replaced with a new one within 30 minutes.
- All light bulbs are LED warm white; we appreciated that.
- Room service is quite pricy, even by New York standards and only available during certain hours. We didn’t use it.
- There are no coffee makers in any of the rooms. We ordered a small, six-cup coffee maker from Amazon (less than $20. with free shipping) and had it sent to the hotel. It was in the package room when we arrived; a porter brought it up to us shortly after we checked in. When we left we asked the housekeeper to donate to to another guest who might be in need of caffeine. For fresh ground coffee, there’s a Starbucks on the corner and a Duane Read a block south
- If you want a cab use the doorman at main entrance on CPS. There’s another entrance, heading south from the elevators, across a long white marble floor with a porte-cochère, on 58th Street.
- If you truly love an intense park or city view, prepare to be sleepy in the mornings. The night views are hard to pry yourself away from.
- The furniture could use a bit of a refresh.
- The carpets are new, thick, heavily padded, and feel rich under foot. Ours was deep burgundy.
- In the hotel’s south lobby, there’s a take-out cafe and sandwich shop (mornings and early afternoons). Prices are very reasonable. Near the south door there is a gift shop with sundries and such.
- WiFi is unlimited and free through the facilities charge that includes the fitness room.
Note that Jacob and I have no affiliation with the Park Lane other than having been very, very happy visitors. Cheers!
The Park Lane Hotel website