Photo of Noel GonzalezBy Claudie Benjamin

What building entrance on the Upper West Side is flanked by two bronze-toned lions? The answer may elude you even if you’ve lived in the neighborhood your whole life.

Hints: a.) it’s a hotel, b.) the location is two blocks up from Carmine’s, and Manhattan Diner is down the block c.) Symphony Space is across the Street. And d.) there’s a good chance Noel Gonzalez will greet you to open the door.

The answer is the Night Hotel at 215 West 94th Street.

The lions are not as well-known as Frederick G. R. Roth’s monumental bronze lion on the Columbia University campus or the seated marble pair in front of the public library’s main branch on 42nd Street and 5th Avenue. Still, Faiza Khan, Night Hotel Revenue Manager, said, “Although no one knows the story of how they got there, lots of guests have their photos taken with the lions.”

Business was drastically limited over the COVID-19 pandemic period but has more recently resurged. The hotel has 280 rooms and offers numerous bed sizes and configurations. Travelers are visiting from different parts of the United States, from Europe and Latin America; Faiza said: “Visitors who want to be in midtown for business or entertainment are unlikely to choose the Night Hotel, but many others (individuals, families, and groups) make it a deliberate, convenient base.”

Faiza offers the example of the friends and family of students whose graduation is on the horizon – “We’re just a few stops away on the 1 train from Columbia University” she said. Several times a year, groups affiliated with the nearby synagogue come to the city, booking rooms at the Night Hotel and enjoying its proximity to the meetings they attend. Another group of enthusiasts are residents in the neighborhood whose apartments may not accommodate a group of friends and visiting family members.

Faiza noted that they welcome the availability of a budget hotel built by the standards of an earlier time, providing spacious bedrooms and bathrooms. She notes that in contrast to many midtown hotels, which do not have in-room closets, so you’re always maneuvering around your luggage, the Night Hotel has closets in every room.

Bathrooms, she said, are kept neat and tidy. The titling is in great shape, she noted; that fixtures were installed at a time when things were built to last. Faiza has worked at the Night Hotel for ten years and for the 15 years prior for other hotels in the group. She started out as a Reservations Associate and worked her way up. She said that every hotel has specific routines and provides training to its employees, but, of course, experience is always preferred. French, Hindi, Chinese, Spanish and English are spoken at the hotel.

Asked about the challenges of maintaining the big hotel, Faiza said that admittedly wear and tear takes its toll. “We are renovating and refurbishing where most needed – as we speak.”

Just as the lions lend a special air of dignity to the hotel’s entry, so does an interesting footnote from the world of cinema add to its history. Hotel Monterey, the 1972 full-length, silent art film by filmmaker Chantal Akerman, was filmed at what is now the Night Hotel. According to an online synopsis, “Shots are meticulously staged to create visual patterns and optical illusions as the film slowly explores several different parts of the hotel, ranging from austere and claustrophobic basement corridors to hotel rooms—some occupied, some not—to skylines of neighboring building roofs and water towers shot from the rooftop.”

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