is this really the worst hotel in NYC or is this all just hyperbole?
December 4, 2012 3:29 PM   Subscribe

NYC hotel filter- I'm booked to stay at the Hotel Pennsylvania (across from MSG) tomorrow night. There are positive reviews on TripAdvisor, but the negative ones are terribly frightening. Is it really that bad? Would love to have input from anyone who has stayed there or knows the area.

Because honestly, I trust Mefites more than I trust random people on TripAdvisor.

I'm in the area for a conference and my stay is comped by the organisation running the conference, so I had little choice in the matter. Should I be frightened?
posted by thereemix to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (27 answers total)
The area is fine. I work on the next block. While not a particularly scenic part of the city, it's not dangerous, if that's what you are worried about. It's near 34th St and Macy's is a block over, so it's sort of shopping Armageddon at this time of year around there.

As for the hotel, my work put actually put a bunch of people up there for a conference last year. There were complaints, but most of them were about reservation issues (some people weren't booked for the exact right days... and then had to change rooms, and one person was moved twice). There weren't any major horror stories about the rooms themselves that I heard. As a rule, NYC hotel rooms are smaller than most other cities, and at a mid-range tourist hotel such as this one, I would guess they are a bit shabby.

Is there anything in particular that you are worried about?
posted by kimdog at 3:41 PM on December 4, 2012

The hotel is kind of a pit, but the people on Trip Advisor are raving lunatics. The area around Penn Station is bossy and gouging but every neighbirhhod next to the train station is like that, the upside you can get to pretty much anywhere from there in almost no time.
posted by The Whelk at 3:43 PM on December 4, 2012 [4 favorites]

But yeah, not dangerous- too many people, too many lights, just kinda ugly and crowded and full of cheap junk.
posted by The Whelk at 3:44 PM on December 4, 2012

I stayed there once in a basic room with 2 double beds in it. These were my observations:

1. By NYC standards, the room was HUGE. I was pretty impressed with that. So many hotel rooms in NYC are so small you can barely walk your way around the beds.

2. The building is old, and not in a "charming" kind of way. And with that kind of age comes a general feeling of uncleanliness, although I didn't see any major stains or dirt in our particular room. It was more like too many layers of paint piled up over the years and not-so-clean corners.

3. The size of the room combined with poor lighting and the old building made it seem slightly shabby (or maybe creepy?), but certainly not enough to bother us.

But you can't beat the location, especially if you're visiting. Basically every subway line is right outside the door and you're centrally located to all of Manhattan. Just don't expect anything fancy, modern or new.
posted by dede at 3:45 PM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Talking out my ear here, but there are almost 5,400 reviews on TripAdvisor and almost one third are one star. That's way too many to ignore. Yelp has 169 reviews that aren't any better. I wouldn't stay there.

On preview, I'm not a New Yorker, but that area wasn't in the least bit dangerous when I was there - just hectic.
posted by cnc at 3:46 PM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

The Hotel Pennsylvania is a terrible, terrible hotel. It's disgusting even in the meeting areas.
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:47 PM on December 4, 2012

I'm not so much worried about safety - I used to work not that far away up on 38th so I know the neighborhood. Most of the negative reviews on TripAdvisor are complaining about the rooms being shabby/unclean. I've stayed in some pretty dinky small gross dive-type hotels in NYC so my shabby-meter is calibrated accordingly - I can't tell if these reviews have genuine complaints or if these are people who would freak at seeing a speck of dust on one surface.
posted by thereemix at 3:47 PM on December 4, 2012

I've never stayed at the Hotel Pennsylvania, but upon seeing your question, I immediately recalled reading a New York Observer article years ago that quoted Dave Barry as saying it has walls made of compressed grime and faucets delivering “hot and cold running broth".
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 3:50 PM on December 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

Aha, here's the full Dave Barry review.
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 3:52 PM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've stayed there twice and I thought it was fine. Nothing frightening's likely to happen - the worst thing that happened to me was a drunk girl called my room at two in the morning looking for a guy she'd met the previous weekend who was staying there and gave her his room number, which had become mine by the time she got around to calling.

It wasn't filthy or anything. I've been more impressed by other NYC hotels but it was okay.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 3:53 PM on December 4, 2012

I stayed there once maybe 7 years ago. It was fine for what we paid. I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it. It served it's purpose, and I didn't think it was dirty. I'd stay there again.
posted by allnamesaretaken at 3:58 PM on December 4, 2012

Stayed there for several days almost a decade ago. Was awakened by plumbing parts falling down the wall and the bathroom flooding one morning, neighboring room shaking a roach out of a blanket another morning. I don't think the rooms were particularly dirty, but the building is old and it's a Manhattan hotel.

There are no good hotels in Manhattan, so far as I can tell (Caveat: Most of my stays in the city have been booked by someone else. I don't work for that company any more). If I need to stay near NYC in the future I'll probably find a place out on Long Island and LIRR in and out of the city.

(But, mostly, I'll just try to avoid NYC because really: why?)
posted by straw at 4:00 PM on December 4, 2012

It is old and more than a little grody but I don't recall seeing anything about it on any bedbug websites, so there's that at least.
posted by elizardbits at 4:03 PM on December 4, 2012

There are no good hotels in Manhattan

More accurately there are no good cheapish hotels in Manhattan. I've stayed at 4 Points Chelsea and 4 Points Soho numerous times. Both are not cheap but also not nearly as pricey as your average Manhattan hotel, both are new buildings, and very nice. I would happily stay at either one again.

I've only been in the public areas of Hotel Pennsylvania & they were kind of rundown but not horrendous. The area is perfectly safe even in the middle of the night, just... a super compressed ball of all that makes Midtown so "ick" I suppose.

By the way, come on over to Jersey City. We have nice hotels over here, and our transit system is limping back to normal after Sandy so you can get between JC & Manhattan again. Hotels are generally way less expensive over here.
posted by lyra4 at 4:16 PM on December 4, 2012

My parents stayed there about 5 years ago. They thought it was pretty gross and there was something wrong with my Aunt's room that never did get fixed. If you're a 'a hotel room is just where I sleep' person and you literally don't care if it's a dank hole as long as it doesn't have bed bugs, it might be fine. But if you're hoping for something better than that, it's not a good bet.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:32 PM on December 4, 2012

I'm a NY hotel expert.

Hotel is old, the rooms are dingy, they see a lot of traffic. To be blunt, the hotel is a favorite of many from the developing world, and hygiene varies tremendously. The cleanliness depends on the room. Choose wisely.

It's also one of the few hotels that allows pets, including dogs. This bothers especially those concerned about cleanliness and allergies.
posted by Kruger5 at 5:10 PM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Bear in mind a number of the good reviews could be put there by the hotel. Personally I would pay more attention to the bad ones.
posted by musofire at 5:24 PM on December 4, 2012

My parents have stayed there in the past, and while it wasn't the classiest hotel they could have stayed in, it wasn't awful either. This was in the 1990's, though.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:49 PM on December 4, 2012

My parents stayed there in 2005, and I briefly went in the room. It was small and totally unglamorous, but sufficient and certainly in a great area for tourism. I wouldn't be too worried!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:56 PM on December 4, 2012

I stayed there for one night 3 years ago. As others have noted, the room was pretty shabby. I wouldn't say it was filthy, but even if it been cleaned by a score of highly competent maids, it wouldn't have felt or looked clean because it was so run down. The bedding was cheap and bizarrely both threadbare AND scratchy. Finally, I saw a bug on my bed. I couldn't say definitively that it was a bed bug, it may have been a tiny roach, but either way, not pleasant. I got the room on Priceline for something crazy, like $50, so I kinda chalked it up to getting what I paid for, but I wouldn't stay there again. I say all this as someone without a lot of money who stays primarily in inexpensive places by necessity, so it's not like I'm accustomed to 4 star (or frankly even 2 star) luxury.
posted by kaybdc at 6:57 PM on December 4, 2012

It is old and more than a little grody but I don't recall seeing anything about it on any bedbug websites, so there's that at least.

It's in the Bed Bug Registry.
posted by kaybdc at 7:33 PM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Thanks everyone...I actually live about an hour north of NYC so it's not terribly necessary for me to stay overnight for this conference. I took them up on it thinking it might make things easier not dealing with Metro-North at midnight after the opening night dinner/party breaks up (which is when the trains run super local and my hour commute is nearly doubled while I am exhausted). But if the hotel is in the bedbug registry...I'll pass. Better a long train ride than an overnight bag filled with contaminated bed buggy clothing.
posted by thereemix at 5:09 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you're still up for staying overnight, here's my TripAdvisor review of the Comfort Inn on 35th Street.

The last time we were in New York, we stayed at the Intercontinental Barclay and had a GREAT experience.

Or, go home on the train. That's good too.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:06 AM on December 5, 2012

That hotel is disgusting. I've been in one of the rooms to visit someone in town but didn't stay there at night. Yes, TripAdvisor commenters are raving lunatics, but...they are right here. It's disgusting.
posted by sweetkid at 7:18 AM on December 5, 2012

I had quite possibly the worst coleslaw in the universe at the Hotel Pennsylvania. It was the weekend before 9/11/01, and Wifey and I had gone to NYC for the Star Trek convention. Being as the con was at the hotel, we figured it would be worth spending a little extra to stay right there and avoid any unnecessary travel.

We checked in, got to our room, and found a dingy, dirty, really unattractive space. The carpet was some of the nastiest I'd ever experienced, to the point where I wouldn't take my shoes off until I was lying down in bed. The bathroom was clean-ish, yet somehow still scuzzy. But at least there weren't any signs of vermin.

We went to the con for a few hours, then decided to go to the attached restaurant (Lindy's?). I had a corned beef on rye, and it came with a side of coleslaw. The slaw looked... dirty. Grungy, almost. But hey, it's food, it can't actually be dirt, right? So I took a forkful. And HOLY MOTHER OF GOD. It tasted like what I imagined the subway floor might taste like if you were to lick it. It tasted like failure, plain and simple. It tasted like Manhattan smells, that sharp tang that pervades the air and takes several washings to get out of your coat.

I calmly spit the slaw into my napkin. The taste remained. I sipped water, then soda. Then I rubbed the lemon wedge on my tongue. Ketchup? Nothing was taking this taste away. I resorted to rubbing my tongue with the napkin. Because it was that horrible.

Meanwhile, my wife was watching my antics. She was laughing at me, until I was making gagging noises and practically retching, at which point she sighed and said, "It can't be that bad," and took her own bite. About ten seconds later, she went through the same process.

We both agreed that it was an abomination towards vegetables.

Many years later, we'd be watching a show on the Top Ten Bathrooms In The World. Number 6 (I believe) was Hotel Pennsylvania! See, when they have the Westminster Kennel Show or whatever at MSG, a lot of dog owners stay at the Pennsylvania, it being right across the street and all. And Manhattan being Manhattan, they don't always want to have to take the dogs outside. So the management at the Pennsylvania takes care of them by turning one of the ballrooms/meeting rooms into a toilet for dogs. They lay down plastic, truck in bark mulch, and the dog owners can walk their dogs inside. So if I ever had a meeting there, I'd spend the time unable to concentrate, wondering if this was the room where management had decided it was cool to have dogs shitting and pissing.

So this is what I think of when I hear "Hotel Pennsylvania". I'd stay there again, sure, but I wouldn't be happy about it, and I'd probably pack my own sheets. Seriously.
posted by disconnect at 8:41 AM on December 5, 2012 [6 favorites]

I stayed there this past summer and it was so foul I had trouble sleeping. Last month my SO read a book about the CIA's clandestine programs in the 1960s and apparently they murdered one of their acid scientists on the floor we stayed. This would explain the bedspread.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 4:52 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

That would be Frank Olson. But I doubt it'll happen again while you're there.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:35 AM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

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