The New York Athletic Club......A Distinctive Time Warp on Central Park
Written: Oct 17, 2003 (Updated Oct 18, 2003)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Grand public rooms, outstanding athletic areas, pleasant staffers
Cons:Formal atmosphere and dress code may not be to everyone's liking, food is indifferent
The Bottom Line: For location, service and outstanding athletic offerings, one could hardly do better than the NYAC.
The New York Athletic Club at 180 Central Park South is one of those charming anachronisms you just don't find every day. Whatever rules there may be, they are all worth putting up with for the great virtues of the location alone, possibly the best of any private club in the city. Few can match the location, and none can match the athletic offerings here. Its history dates back to 1868, but the present Club House, or "City House" as it is known, was completed in 1930.
Twenty one stories of solid muscle, the NYAC has a Florentine solidity packed into its bulk. Designed by York and Sawyer, builders of many other towers in New York and Toronto, it might not be the most graceful building ever built. Even so, no one would dare accuse it of impropriety. The Club is all about traditional values, and they are not about to let you forget it. If you are feeling un-traditional in any way, the NYAC isn't the place for you.
The bronze entrance doors move slowly, and soon you are in a different world. A man at the desk gently acosts you to be sure you are supposed to be here. The desk is just over to the left. Like everything else in the lobby, it is big and made of marble. The lobby is like a set piece from the 1920's. Like the city outside, it is big, bustling and imposing. Heavy oxblood leather couches, bronze statuary and many plaques attest that this is a place of unchanging tradition. Handsome as it is, this isn't really a place to linger. Also, if you are not dressed properly you will be directed to the elevators in no time at all. They take their dress codes very seriously here.
Once you are past the ponderous bronze doors of the elevators, they move quickly to the upper reaches of the building. My first room was an "Athletic Single" on the eighth floor. This is just a nice way of saying that it is the smallest room they have. For only $135.00, one can hardly complain.
After you see the view (if you are lucky enough to land a room with a view of Central Park) you will not think twice. These rooms are the smallest in the Club, and indeed are among the smallest I have seen anywhere. The furniture looked like something out of a film from the 1930's, and these rooms don't even have a full bath. After hunting around, I discovered the showers just across the hall. A bed, a writing desk, a television a closet and a VIEW. That was all there was to this room. For the price, it was a fair trade.
The following day, however, I was joined by a friend of mine and my sister and her husband would be in town for the weekend. A larger room was clearly in order. Without really thinking about it, I asked for something larger. The twin they had on the 17th floor was much more attractive, still small, but recently redecorated. Like many, it faced an air shaft. I opted for the room on the 20th floor instead. This one had a view to kill for. A large corner room, it was large, freshly renovated and had a spectacular view of the park on two sides. Never mind that it was $360.00 instead of $135.00. Some views are worth it. The furnishings were traditional and quiet, nothing out of the ordinary, but conservative and comfortable. The Presidential Suites are enormous and have their own large terraces overlooking the park. You could even throw a cocktail party on one of them if you wanted to.
The bath had also been slathered with granite and marble in a recent redecoration. The granite counter held two sinks, lots of towels and even fairly good soap and shampoo, something woefully lacking in the tiny single twelve floors below.
As with many of her fair sisters in the world of private clubs, dining is only incidental to the whole experience. I have dined well here, and I have had less than stellar repasts as well. Stick to the basics and you may do well. Food is almost beside the point. The main dining room on the ninth floor isn't so much about food as it is about itself, a reserved, quiet world in the air in which to have breakfast or dinner. Even at breakfast, you will be turned away without a tie. Breakfast itself was without excitement, but served with dignity and grace. The view commanded most respect, but the room itself is handsome, with a magnificent beamed ceiling festooned with ornate carving.
For less formal dining, the Tap Room on the second floor offers lunch and dinner. The surroundings are simpler, but the atmosphere is less intimidating. Again, there's really nothing out of this world on the menu, but the food isn't bad either.
The Tap Room above has a bar and the main bar is on the first floor. I didn't really care for the appointments in the main bar, reeking as they did of the 1950's, but the whole thing has a retro feel to it that is fun, in a way. You could be on a movie set, the place is so out of keeping with the times. That's the charm here.
The pool, saunas and aquatic exercise rooms are on the third floor. Though it dates back to the construction of the building, the pool has been well maintained and does not appear old. Everything is bright, functional and on a colossal scale. The saunas are unusual. How often do you find a sauna in which you can sit back in an Adirondack chair and look out at Central Park? Be sure to put lots of towels on the chair as it gets fiercely hot in here.
The Spout Room, an aquatic torture chamber of sorts awaits those who wish to partake in streams of variously hot, cold or frigid water in all manner of pulses and speeds. Some of the jets are powerful enough to blast you to Queens.
The fifth floor holds the steam rooms, more saunas and workout rooms. There are racquetball and handball courts on the 21st floor too (squash courts are on 7). Fencing and wrestling are in the basement. What isn't available here may be available at their club house on Travers Island. If in doubt, ask the concierge.
Other Public Rooms
I like their library on the ninth floor. Nearly always deserted, it has tall oak bookcases whose quiet shelves are covered by leaded glass in diamond panes. The books are wondrously out of date (except for a small table of new arrivals, already dog-eared). With the morning sun streaming in, it's a great place to find a bit of peace.
The Card Room is really more of a ballroom, with its magnificent ceiling of hand tooled leather. Heavy portraits of past presidents gaze down at you as you pass through the somber hallways. Life at the Club hasn't stopped, but it moves at its own leisurely pace. The rooms are not often deserted, being let out for parties (for members) on most nights.
The prices listed above are for reciprocal members. The members of the Club enjoy prices which are slightly lower. As this is a private club, one will need a letter of introduction from a reciprocal club.
The New York Athletic Club
180 Central Park South
New York, NY 10019
Toll free 800-699-3293
Read all 1 Reviews
Write a Review