Historic JFK terminal gets new life as luxury hotel

NEW YORK (AP) — The famous winged TWA terminal at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport came out of its decades-long retirement Wednesday with a new life as a luxury hotel.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was on hand for a ribbon cutting ceremony opening the $268 million project.

He said he remembers seeing the terminal as a Queens boy "and saying, 'Wow! Wow! It was ahead of its time and it was New York's vision and creativity and boldness, and outside of the box thinking that made New York, New York.'"

The Finnish architect Eero Saarinen didn't have a hotel in mind when he designed the futuristic structure that opened in 1962.

Those were the heady jet-age days of the first space flights and President John F. Kennedy's promise of a moon landing.

Developer Tyler Morse hopes the proximity to the tarmac will draw travelers who don't want to fight nightmarish city traffic to catch their flights.

Beyond today's practical concerns lies a half-century-old dream.

"This TWA Flight Center was built as a cathedral to aviation," Morse said.

The history of TWA and its era will be on display in the 200,000-square-foot curving lobby that has no right angles, like the rest of the building, and is in TWA's red and white colors.

Hotel rooms are in an attached building.

The 512 rooms, starting at about $250 a night, have thick, noise-dampening windows near JFK's Terminal 5 in view of planes taking off. The Beatles arrived at the TWA terminal in 1965 to a frenzied crowd.

The hotel has six restaurants, including one operated by celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. One of its eight bars is housed inside a vintage TWA aircraft Morse said was once purchased and used by South American drug dealers.

The hotel also features a 10,000 square-foot observation deck with a pool.

Kennedy is catching up with other international flight hubs that have hotels. Right now, most New York options are either a few budget accommodations in a neighborhood by the airport, or a very long train or cab ride into the city center.

New York's aging airport, which is itself undergoing a $13 billion renovation, was home to TWA until the airline went out of business in 2001 and was absorbed by American Airlines.

A lone TWA sign still marks its winged, white former terminal that remains a bold, elegant example of mid-20th century design.

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This story has been corrected to show that The Beatles arrived at the TWA terminal in 1965 not 1964.