Thursday, July 11, 2013

Bright Lights, Big City: Report from Element, Times Square West, The Day Before the Start of the 2013 Prius Plug-In-MPG Challenge

by Paul E McGinniss

On Tuesday, I traveled by bus from New Paltz, Ulster County, New York to NYC, excited to pick up my Prius the next day to begin my month long journey with a Prius Plug-In-Hybrid. (See end of post for background info about the 2013 Prius Plug-In-MPG Challenge.) 

Upon arriving at the Port Authority on 42nd street, I was, literally, just steps away from Element, Times Square West where I stayed the night before picking up my Prius.   
Entrance Element, Times Square West in NYC

Element is a great location because it is a short walking distance to all the subway lines, both for the East and West sides of Manhattan, Uptown or Downtown and going to Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx. (Anyone coming to visit NYC really needs to take the subway and experience all the boroughs to get the full, real, diverse flavor of NYC.)

The first thing I noticed upon entering Element is how really great it smells inside.  The pleasing quality of the air was very subtle, but I noticed it immediately upon entering the lobby from the sometimes grungy hubbub of a frenetic city.  As soon as I left 39th Street, I sensed something soothing and relaxing. When I mentioned this sensation to Russell Porter, Director of Sales for the hotel, he told me that, like Element, all of the Starwood Hotels have their own scent and that Element is infused with the scent of green tea.  

I can tell you that clean, healthy indoor air quality, pyschologically and physically, makes a real difference to me, as I have become more chemically sensitive and in tune with the air and environment that surrounds me.  Even if one does not feel overly sensitive to chemicals and air quality, good air, indoors and out, does make a real difference in how we feel, whether it is super noticeable or not.

Lounge Area off the Lobby of Element
And, it is not just the scent of green tea that makes the Element air quality better.  No smoking is allowed anywhere in the hotel.  Element has made history, actually, as the only major hotel brand to mandate that all of its properties pursue LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification by the U.S. Green Building Council for high-performance buildings.  

Each Element hotel is built green from the ground up. All are powered by 100% renewable energy.  The hotel interior throughout uses eco-friendly materials and fabrics.  All of the carpeting, paints, adhesives and wall covers have low content VOC (volatile organic compounds) which do not off gas any unpleasant or harmful gasses and minimize airborne pollutants.

Russell Porter, Director of Sales, and Vickiana Castillo, Sales Manager of Element

The second thing I noticed upon entering the lobby were bicycles, both just outside the entrance door and also inside the lobby.  Once inside I was greeted by a really ecletic mix of people, old and young, business people and tourists, speaking a variety of languages.  I soon found out that Element offers free bikes to guests, which is really cool, especially since the hotel is just a few short blocks to miles of  bike paths and parks that line the glorious Hudson River, all the way from the southern tip of Manhattan in Battery Park to the very Upper West Side.   

View of Hudson River from Private Roof Deck at Element, Times Square West
I urge anyone visiting NYC to take at least a half day, if not a whole day, to just bike around the waterfront of Manhattan and see how NYC is truly transforming itself into a green waterfront city for the future.  The green development of NYC's waterfront and the health of New York's waterways is due in no small part to the Waterkeeper Alliance, the group that I am competing for in the 2013 Prius Plug-In-MPG Challenge.  (Check out #Pluginforcharity)

This international group of committed Waterkeepers started out as a small group of environmental activists who wanted to clean up the Hudson River from decades of industrial pollution.  Waterkeeper now helps protect the world's water on every continent to make sure the waters of the world are swimmable, drinkable and fishable!  

A future Riverkeeper enjoys the Hudson River thanks to Riverkeeper’s 30 years of work to clean up the river and make happy faces like this possible.  New York's Riverkeeper was the genesis of the Waterkeeper Alliance which is now active worldwide with hundreds of alliance members.  Photo via
The success of a small group of concerned citizens, who turned their love of the Hudson River into a worldwide advocacy platform, tells us two things.  One, small steps can lead to big accomplishments.  And two, You Gotta Love New York!!!   

And, before I forget. The Element's private rooftop terrace offers stunning views of the Empire State Building, the Hudson River and Midtown Manhattan.  

View from roof deck of Element, Times Square West in NYC

You do not truly experience NYC until you experience it from above. At Element, the birds eye views are without crowds, and a quick elevator ride from the comfort of your room.
Another view from roof deck of Element, Times Square West, NYC

I will be reporting for the next month on Wave Two of the 2013 Prius Plug-In-MPG Challenge. Keep checking in to read about some amazing environmental advocates and news about sustainable, amazing New York State.


The winner of the challenge will receive a $2,500 donation to the charity of their choice. 
For the next 30 days (from July 12th to Aug 12th), I will be driving a Prius Plug-In-Hybrid as part of the 2013 Toyota Prius Plug-in-MPG Challenge.  Toyota has partnered with seven prolific environmental influencers (myself included) from the tri-state area for Wave Two of the 2013 Prius Plug-In-MPG Challenge – a fun competition to help educate local communities on the benefits of electric vehicles.

Check out #Pluginforcharity

The charity I am competing for is New York-based Waterkeeper Alliance, a global movement of on-the-water advocates who patrol and protect over 100,000 miles of rivers, streams and coastlines in North and South America, Europe, Australia, Asia and Africa.

I would like to thank Earth Day NY for facilitating my participation in the Prius Plug-in-MPG Challenge and Element, Times Square West for providing hotel accommodations while I was in NYC for the Challenge.

Copyright 2013 Paul E McGinniss

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