By Terry Trucco
As a group, New York City hotels aren’t very green. It’s not for want of trying. Many reside in old buildings
constructed long before sustainability was on the radar. Yet almost weekly you hear of advances on the green front, from baby steps to strides.
In December the InterContinental New York Barclay, a 685-room hotel billeted in a Roaring 20s building, switched completely to wind-powered energy. Earlier this year the 899-room New York Palace, a stylish marriage of the historic Villard Houses and a 1970s tower, became the city’s largest hotel to operate completely on renewable energy. Hypo-allergenic rooms are quietly proliferating at places like the Grand Hyatt, the Andaz Wall Street and Fifth Avenue, Park Central, Paramount and Doubletree Guest Suites Times Square, among others.
And last week we toured the three-month old Element New York Times Square West by Westin, the first New York link in Starwood’s 2008 chain designed to embrace sustainability and things green.
Not surprisingly, Element resides in a new building, a skinny, 418-room, glass high-rise on West 39th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues. It’s a gritty, touristy block, populated by new chain hotel towers — the Comfort Inn, Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn Express and Candlelight Suites — along with delis and fast-food places in older, low-slung structures. Times Square is a short walk away, and the Port Authority Bus Terminal, convenient if somewhat seedy, is even closer.
Element sports the scrubbed, clean-lined, Ikea-inflected modernism favored by green properties. And in case you miss visual tip-offs like low neutral-hued sofas, seating cubes doubling as side tables and white, metal-legged refractory stables, the palette embraces unsullied Mother Nature: white, brown and at least three shades of green (we spotted clover, kelly and forest).
The overall effect seemed a bit sterile, like stepping into a gigantic milk bottle with green lettering. Yet it’s hard to fault the stats: wall art mounted on bases made from recycled tires, carpets, furniture and floor-coverings fabricated from recycled materials and walls bathed in low-VOC paint. At present the hotel says it purchases a minimum of 70 percent of its energy from a renewable source.
Favorite detail: round, magnetized, paper-saving Do Not Disturb signs that slap onto a metal rectangle on each guest room door.
An extended stay hotel, Element serves up attractive basics – plenteous public spaces including two spacious lounges, one with a glass roof affording natural light, and a generous lobby eating area (the daily buffet breakfast, included in the price of the room, offers healthy low-fat wraps and smoothies).
Rooms ranging from snug studios to spacious suites, come with kitchens outfitted with Energy Star LG appliances, recycle bins under the sink and good-looking glass tile backsplashes. We liked the green accent wall behind the white-sheeted king-size bed, a Westin Heavenly Bed. Bathrooms come with dual-flush toilets, water-conserving sinks and stall showers. To keep everything a clean green, Seventh Generation cleaning products are used. Compact fluorescent bulbs provide illumination.
If money is no object, we suggest a room on a high floor with a dazzling city view, about $50 a night higher than the cheaper alternative — a window facing the boring building across the street (lower that Roman shade). Gazing out onto the city lights seems the ultimate lullaby of Broadway; turn out the lights in your room, and it’s a guilt-free pastime — pure green.