7. There’s a Power Plant in the Basement of the New Yorker That Was an Engineering Milestone in Manhattan

new-yorker-hotel-secrets-power-plant-basement-joe-kinney-archives-nyc_7The locomotive steam engine in the basement of the New Yorker Hotel

“The New Yorker Hotel was the most advanced hotel in the world technologically when it was built,” says Kinney. It’s 1 million square feet above ground and 200,000 square feet below ground. The Institute of Electrical and Electrical Engineers (IEEE) named the New Yorker Hotel an IEEE Milestone in Electrical Engineering and Computing for having the “largest (DC) generating plant in the United States” when it was built. It was also one of the first cogeneration power plants in the world. There are only a little over one hundred IEEE milestone sites in the world, and the New Yorker Hotel joins the ranks of places like Niagara Falls and Bell Laboratories.

new-yorker-hotel-secrets-power-plant-basement-joe-kinney-archives-nyc_5The switchboard, which included labels for ice rink and other locations

The power plant was installed in 1929 and had enough capacity to provide electrical power for a city of 35,000 people. As such, the hotel remained completely off the power grid for thirty years. High pressure boilers made 180 pound steam, sending it over to a massive eightl cylinder diesel locomotive steam engine that powered the direct current electric generators. Exhaust steam was used for heating and other activities within the building, providing the cogeneration part of the plant. Down in the basement, you can still see the motors, over 200 of them, and a sixty-foot long switchboard, which Kinney refers to as the “Frankenstein board.”

new-yorker-hotel-secrets-power-plant-basement-joe-kinney-archives-nyc_6A former direct current generator

When Kinney arrived to the hotel, he proposed moving the building off of Con-Ed steam and have the hotel make its own again at one-third the cost. This boiler system he devised, replacing the high pressure boilers with low pressures ones, saves the hotel 3 to 4 million dollars a year and kept the business solvent during some difficult years.

new-yorker-hotel-secrets-power-plant-basement-joe-kinney-archives-nyc_3The current boiler system