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One Traveler's Opinion: New York's Hudson Hotel

One Traveler's Opinion: New York's Hudson Hotel

Oct 23rd, 2003, 11:04 AM
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One Traveler's Opinion: New York's Hudson Hotel

Let me state at the outset that I am a Hyatt kind of a guy. And, if there isn?t room at the Hyatt, I?m happy at the Marriott, especially if it?s one of their Renaissance properties. In other words, I like my hotels comfortable and, yes, even predictable. But a couple of weeks ago, I found myself in New York City on last minute business and four of us needed hotel rooms for two nights. It happened to be Fashion Week, perhaps the highest occupancy week of the year for Manhattan hotels. Our corporate travel agent said, ?all I can get is the Hudson for $235 a night.? The name didn?t mean anything at the time, much less set off alarm bells, and so we stayed at the Hudson. Herewith, a report.

There is a movement in cities like New York and San Francisco toward trendy, European, ?boutique? hotels. They?re designed to appeal to a new, hip kind of traveler; an urban sophisticate who sees hotels as theater and wants a ?lodging experience.? After two nights at the Hudson, I am prepared to admit, for the record, that I never again wish to be considered a hip traveler or an urban sophisticate. And I hope never again to have a lodging experience like this one.

There?s nothing wrong with the Hudson?s location ? a block west of Columbus Circle on the west side. The street is quiet, the good restaurants around Lincoln Center are a short stroll away, and three major subway lines intersect under Columbus Circle, providing quick access to all of Manhattan.

From the outside, the Hudson Hotel looks normal. It?s a brick building with glass doors; a constant bustle of activity. Kind of comforting in its own right. The reception desk is up an escalator, where the rider gradually ascends into darkness. End of comfort. At the top of the escalator is a kind of grand foyer, except that it is very nearly pitch black, the ceiling is covered by vines, and Europop blares at something well above 100 decibels. The staff is dressed entirely in black and apparently has been instructed to slink rather than walk.

The Hudson apparently draws a substantial international clientele and, had I been fluent in Italian, checking in would likely have been a breeze. But Luciano struggled with every aspect of the process and I found it easier to use tourist Italian to make my preferences known that to pantomime my room requirements. The Hudson also apparently draws a rough crowd. To the best of my knowledge, it is the only hotel in which I have ever stayed that employs bouncers by its elevators. Two such ectomorphs passed judgment on me before I was allowed to push the ?up? button.

The dim lighting of the lobby is matched by the hotel?s corridors, which are narrow enough that two people cannot walk abreast comfortably. But the corridors are only a distant early warning system of what it to come: the rooms.

How do I describe a room at the Hudson? ?Small? does not do it justice. The main sleeping chamber measures 8 feet by 9 feet, which means that a platform-mounted queen-sized bed occupies more than half of the room. There is an 18-inch path on either side of the bed (presumably there so that the maids don?t have to walk on the beds in order to make them). That leaves a three-foot wide swath for everything else, including a desk that is roughly the same dimensions as the one I had in third grade. The accompanying chair was a pathetic plastic folding thing. There is no room for luggage (it goes on the bed). The window is a two-foot-square periscope on the world and has neither curtain nor night shade; only a louver that slightly dims the incoming light.

The bathroom is roughly the dimensions of one on an airplane, except that it also shoehorns in a shower stall (to give the illusion of more space, the shower stall is glass on one side and opens to the sleeping chamber). The bathroom is so small that the bath mat cannot lay unfolded on the floor, and the toilet is partially under the sink. The bathroom construction is nothing more than painted Sheetrock. Who could possible consider this charming?

But a ?lodging experience? requires theater, and my experience included two fire alarms; one at midnight, the other at 2 a.m. But not to worry: a loudspeaker informed us that there was no need to go downstairs. Just listen to the blaring alarm for 20 minutes.

I didn?t eat at the hotel?s restaurant. But the New York Times? William Grimes did, and he reviewed it for that newspaper. Here?s a sample of what he had to say: ?The menu at Hudson Cafeteria alternates between fusion favorites and comfort classics, some with a small updated twist, like the foie gras appended to macaroni gratin like a ball and chain, or the quinoa that adds an international note to a salad of iceberg lettuce with blue cheese dressing. The less playful international dishes fall farther faster. Grilled salmon, promisingly accented with Moroccan spices, runs aground on a bed of couscous sweetened with enough raisins and apples to make a holiday fruitcake. Roasted red snapper in carrot orange glaze is fish candy.?

The complete review, one of the most scathing ever run by the Times, can be found at this URL: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpag...51C1A9669C8B63.

For anyone unfortunate enough to ever stay at the hotel, there is a satisfactory luncheonette at the corner of 9th Avenue and 58th street that serves fairly priced meals. For dinner, Vince and Eddie?s (70 West 68th Street, just off Columbus Avenue) is a terrific neighborhood restaurant and a long-time personal favorite.

I did, of course, complain, especially about the fire alarms. Luciano has been replaced by Marie, and she slowly repeated what I told her, mentally translating it as she went. She said she was disappointed that she had missed the fire alarm, but had heard that it was ?very exciting? and people had used it as an ?opportunity to meet one another.? I think she missed my point.

My conclusion is that there is no excuse for the Hudson Hotel. New York is a city full of great hotels; including many that are excellent values. My humble opinion is that there is no reason why anyone would ever voluntarily want to stay at the Hudson. If you are ever tempted by some terrific rate, go elsewhere. Trust me.
Neal_Sanders is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2003, 01:05 PM
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Wow - a voice from the past. Glad to see your handle again, Neal...

You'll have noticed by now that if you try to copy and paste something from Word or other WP program to Fodors, quotation marks and other punctuation get messed up.

And thanks for the review. Yet another place in NYC worthy of avoidance.
Gardyloo is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2003, 01:07 PM
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Welcome to my club, Neal. I've often thought and said similar things about "boutique" hotels. To me a nice comfortable room and bath are premium -- much more so than a staff with attitute and designer fashions, a $50 collection of special soaps and moisturizers on the petite sink, or the fact that the room is painted in the very special "alabaster white as seen at dawn over the mountains" not just white, thank you.
Patrick is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2003, 01:12 PM
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I hope you write for a living, Neal, because that is one beautifully written piece. It deserves a wider audience, say, in a letter to a travel magazine or a posting on one of the hotel rating websites.
KenCT is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2003, 01:22 PM
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Gardyloo, I tried typing over the places where I saw "?"'s in the preview, and they still came out bollixed up. Is there any, um, generally accepted way of not having to compose within the "post" box?
Neal_Sanders is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2003, 01:43 PM
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If you write your posts in Notepad, you won't have this problem. You can also write them in Microsoft Word and save them as a text file.

This was an excellent review. Sorry you had a bad stay.
WillTravel is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2003, 02:08 PM
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Sorry you had a bad experience neal, but its GREAT to see you back! We missed you; theres been nothing like your posts since you've been gone!
ellen_griswold is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2003, 02:34 PM
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Count me in on the 'welcome back Neal' train--we've missed you!!! Please don't go away again--posters of your elegance and expertise are few and far between (not to dis any of the rest of us...). Appreciate your review--a friend and I are taking our 12-year old daughters on a mother-daughter trip in March and New York is one of the 'finalists.' Any advice on New York hotels that would make 2 pre-teen girls (and their mommas) giddy with joy?
Oct 23rd, 2003, 02:34 PM
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An excellent post from a Hyatt kind of guy~
Come back soon and stay at the Pierre .
Scarlett is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2003, 03:59 PM
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When I saw, "One Treaveler's Opinion", I hoped it was you Neal. Welcome back--you've been missed. Per usual, that was an enjoyable report, read start to finish although I'll never have any need for the Hudson Hotel. I must say, I really like Hyatt kind of guys! Hyatt has a boutique hotel in the works, the Victor in Miami Beach--want to do a report? Hmm...then again, maybe not!
Oct 23rd, 2003, 05:34 PM
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Welcome back, Neal.
Glad to see your commentary here again.
Your reports are always great reading.
Thanks for posting.
gplimpton is offline  
Oct 24th, 2003, 04:02 AM
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I'm embarrassed... I didn't think I had been away all that long. And thank you all for the kind words.

Tess, Expedia and its kin have made hotel value shopping pretty easy. If the Palace (on Madison Avenue) shows up with an attractive price, grab it. Ditto the Parker Meridien, Swissotel Drake, or Intercontinental Barclay (on 48th). All are superb hotels that should make mothers and daughters beam with joy. (Sorry, OliveOyl, but the Grand Hyatt on 42nd still has 'issues' that preclude it from my list.)

Thanks everyone; it's good to be back!
Neal_Sanders is offline  
Oct 24th, 2003, 05:33 AM
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Welcome back Neal - you have been missed. As for your experience at the Hudson, I have heard the same thing from several of my friends. No thanks for me, I'll stay at the classics.
LoriNY is offline  
Oct 24th, 2003, 09:00 AM
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Neal, thanks. The Barclay keeps popping up on my radar screen when checking out Expedia, Travelocity, Tripadvisor, etc. We were last in New York right before 9/11 and my daughter can't wait to go back. The difference between going to NYC at age 9 and then at 12? Now it's all about the shopping! That's my girl ...
Oct 24th, 2003, 09:46 AM
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Thanks for a great post, Neal. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, especially since I ate at the Hudson Cafeteria last year with some friends who wanted to try it out. Conclusion: Food was OK, but we were clearly not hip enough for the vibe it was desperately trying to project. Guess we're lucky we weren't actually staying overnight!
Judy24 is offline  
Oct 24th, 2003, 10:48 AM
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Nice to see you here again Neal. I really enjoyed this review and got a few well needed chuckles to boot. I have a close friend who worked at both the Hudson and the Paramount (both Ian Schrager properties). Her insider's assessment of their shortcomings very closely corresponds to the experience you described (she's now working for Marriott and looking to move over to the Hyatt organization when an opportunity arises).

The Hudson is actually an old SRO hotel that's been "Schragerized". At over 1,000 rooms it can hardly be called a boutique hotel but the term "boutique" is used as loosely in describing hotels as "all natural" is in foods.

If you visit the west coast on occasiuon I strongly encourage yoou to try some of the Klimpton Group properties. I have stayed only at their Hotel Triton in San Francisco and at the Vintage Park in Seattle but both were wonderful experiences. Small hotels (40 - 80 rooms) with tasteful and unique appointments, a welcoming atmosphere and a high level of service (and cheaper than a Hyatt to boot!).
Owen_ONeill is offline  
Oct 24th, 2003, 11:24 AM
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I think the term "boutique hotel" could actually be translated thus:

"Our hotel has some really major problems like tiny rooms or miserably small bathrooms, but we'll decorate them in a very trendy way and insist that anybody who doesn't like it just doesn't have enough 'taste' to know what's really IN."
Patrick is offline  
Oct 24th, 2003, 11:54 AM
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First, I'm stunned by the number of old, yet very familiar names out there. Gawd, I really must have been away.

Owen, as I wrote my piece, I think I must have had in mind as a "contrast", the Stanford Court in San Francisco, where I stayed the following week. The Stanford Court is flagged as a Marriott Renaissance property, and it couldn't have been more beautiful nor the staff more helpful. My room was spacious and had every amenity and the rate was an amazing $159 (yes, I know SF hotel rates have been whacked by a combination of overbuilding and a downturn). Still, how many hotels have a genuine Tiffany dome over their lobby?

Thanks for the comment and I will put Klimton Group on my "to stay" list.
Neal_Sanders is offline  
Oct 24th, 2003, 03:49 PM
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Yes, Neal, you have been away that long! I really missed your reports. I was so thrilled to see this wasn't an old post that I haven't even read it yet. I'm with Tess - please don't go away again. Welcome back.
April is offline  
Oct 24th, 2003, 03:56 PM
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Owen is right that the Hudson is far from "boutique", unless they are trying to obliquely warn us about the size of the rooms. I think the reason people enjoy smaller hotels is that they can escape the standardization of big chains, and stay in a property that doesn't have to deal with thousands of guests. It's good to let future travellers know about the scandalous rip-off that is the Hudson. It is only for the irretrievably insecure, who are tricked into believing that they are among the "hip" crowd. Neal, you forgot to mention that just across the street from the Hudson is the future Time Warner complex, still massively and noisily under construction.
Lois_L is offline  

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