Old era gives way to new one as TWA Hotel opens at JFK

Courtesy of governor's office

The early ’60s came roaring back to life with a Beatles cover band performing as Governor Andrew Cuomo joined elected officials to cut the ribbon on the new TWA Hotel at JFK International Airport Wednesday.

The landmark Trans World Airlines Flight Center, which opened in 1962 and closed nearly 20 years ago, underwent a $265 million renovation into a one-of-a-kind, 512-room hotel that pays homage to the Jet Age.

“The TWA building was ahead of its time, and it represented New York’s vision and creativity and boldness. New York has always been a state that led the nation in firsts, in reforms, in turnarounds and in troubled times,” Cuomo said. “This rebirth of the TWA Hotel says we haven’t lost our imagination, our boldness, our creativity, our daring, and we are still one step ahead of everyone else. If you want to know where the future’s going to lead, look to the state of New York. The best is yet to be, and the TWA Hotel is a beautiful example.”

The project was union built, with 3,700 construction jobs created, and will be union operated. It took two and a half years to complete. The governor said the new hotel builds on the historic $13 billion vision plan to transform JFK into a 21st-century facility.

“The TWA Hotel exemplifies the overall mission behind JFK’s redevelopment, remodeling its history to reinvent JFK into the future,” Congressman Gregory Meeks said. “This public-private partnership strengthens both our tourism industry and local business community, including MWBE’s contracted for the hotels completion. With the project’s focus on local and diverse hiring, and its available convening space, the TWA Hotel won’t just be part of the airport but part of the community.”

The project involved 22 government agencies and more than 170 firms all guided by developer Tyler Morse who paid tribute to the structures famed architect.

“Eero Saarinen’s cathedral to aviation has always looked toward the future,” Morse said. “We restored and reimagined his landmark with the same care that he devoted to his design. No detail was overlooked, from the millwork by Amish artisans to the custom font inspired by Saarinen’s own sketches to the one-of-a-kind manhole covers, and 600 rotary telephones. Starting today, the world can enjoy this mid-century marvel for many years to come.”

Guests began checking in at 3 p.m. and began to use many of the TWA Hotel’s amenities including a rooftop pool and observation deck overlooking the runways, six restaurants and eight bars including a Lockheed Constellation “Connie” L-1649A transformed into a cocktail lounge. Also among the amenities are an Intelligentsia coffee bar, 50,000 square feet of event space including a 15,000-square-foot ballroom, the world’s biggest hotel gym and museum exhibitions on TWA, the Jet Age and midcentury modern design curated by the New York Historical Society. High-end retail in the space includes a Shinola custom watch band and leather goods store.

“The TWA Hotel is an amazing symbol of how ingenuity and inspiration can help fuel the continued growth of Queens as a destination for New Yorkers and visitors from around the world,” Borough President Melinda Katz said. “The TWA Hotel is a welcome addition to our borough that has revitalized a landmark structure while also creating jobs for hundreds of Queens residents. This incredible project has shown that when it comes to economic development in Queens, the sky’s the limit!”

State Senator Joseph Addabbo agreed.

“As a lifelong resident living within a mile of JFK, I am extremely excited for the opening of this brand-new TWA Hotel at the airport because it signifies to the rest of the world what we already know, that Queens is the place to be and represents a first-class welcome to all,” Addabbo said. “This luxurious hotel will serve millions of visitors who fly into Queens and provide the credible jobs so crucially needed in the economy.” 

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