Sex Hotel Exposed: Exclusive Photos from the Scandalous Kew Motor Inn

by Zach on August 2, 2012

Earlier this year, the Kew Motor Inn was shut down in a massive prostitution sting operation carried out by police. I wasn’t surprised: I’d been to the hotel a week before, as part of an assignment to report on the seedy sex hotels of New York City for…and met a pimp within an hour of being there.

Entrance at the Kew Motor Inn; New York, NY


When I first saw him, I mistook the gigantic gold medallion he was wearing as a badge. When he began angrily pounding on the door of a room, yelling “Open up!,” I thought I was witnessing a prostitution sting operation going down. I soon realized my error: He wasn’t a police officer, but a full-blown pimp about to shake down a John. I could hear the voices of a nervous man and an excited woman from the other side of the door. I could barely make her out as saying “Just open it, just OPEN it!” over and over.

Hallways at the Kew Motor Inn; New York, NY

This all transpired while I was waiting for a glacially slow elevator with my fellow reporter, Rachel, eager to get out of the hotel as quickly as possible. I had an expensive camera with a large lens hanging from my neck that made me look like an undercover police officer. And at the time, unbeknownst to me, the NYPD was nearing the end of its three-month undercover probe, so real undercover police officers were in fact frequenting the hotel. It’s even possible the pimp was one, or the John on the other side of the door.

In spite of my camera — or perhaps because of it — the pimp was chattier than expected. I did my best to keep my eyes trained on the elevator’s floor indicator when I realized the man was waving at me. He smiled and nodded his head at both of us. “Hi, there. You two having a nice day?” We politely nodded back. After a beat, he went back to banging on the door and yelling. Our elevator arrived just as the guest was opening his door. I heard it quickly slam behind him as the elevator began to sink back to the lobby.

A stain in the Love Nest Room at the Kew Motor Inn; New York, NY

And now, the hotel — which had been one of New York City’s most famous and long-standing by-the-hour operations — is closed for good. To kick off’s series on the seedy world of sex hotels, I’m here to share exactly what it was like to experience it in its final days.

Front Desk at the Kew Motor Inn; New York, NY


The building loomed over a gloomy stretch of the Grand Central Parkway, with a madly outdated late-60s facade. When I visited, sheets of rain were coming down and temperatures were in the low 40s. My fellow reporter Rachel and I made our way to the door with a camera bag and tripod conspicuously in tow. The first thing we noticed upon entering was the plastic flowers. The dust-covered plastic bouquets were literally everywhere: In the elevator bays, in the hallways, in the rooms, in the lobby and in the motel bar.

The front desk was protected by a layer of thick glass, complete with an ATM just off to the side for guests who suddenly decide they’d like to pay in cash. The room options were conveniently displayed above the counter, with exciting options like “Arabian Nights, “Waterfall” (complete with an actual flowing waterfall),  “Safari,” and “NY Skyline.” If this looks at all familiar, it’s because it’s just like a short-order menu at a Chinese food restaurant. Noon on a Wednesday proved to be a busy time for the Kew Motor Inn, as most rooms were already booked: My fellow reporter and I ended up booking a “Love Nest” after the first three we selected were occupied.

The Love Nest Room at the Kew Motor Inn; New York, NY

The lobby kept filling with customers while we were paying. The couple directly behind us looked to be in their mid-20s: he was anxiously tapping his foot and looking at us impatiently, and she was scantily clad, wearing tall spiked heels, and texting like a madman on her phone.


The Love Nest Room at the Kew Motor Inn; New York, NY

The room was absolutely as bad as expected. The dank smell of decades of stale cigarette smoke hung over the room and hallways so thickly it almost caused a contact high. The bedspread may or may not have been purchased in the early 90s. Visible stains marked up unexpected spaces. There was almost comedic overuse of gaudy mirrors (some cut in the shape of the New York City skyline).

For any normal person, the combination of all of the above can create a kind of sensory overload, or at least in my case, a temporary form of OCD. Accidentally touching a bed post had me paranoid, convinced I had just touched a sinister sticky spot on the wood. I used half a bar of cheap soap to wash my hands after having to lie down on the bed to take a picture of the overhead mirror.

I think my shirt has hepatitis: the ceiling mirror at the Kew Motor Inn; New York, NY

There were also, of course, a plastic flower bouquet and plastic yucca plant tucked into two corners. Rachel noticed that someone had jammed a Kleenex into the peephole, which we chalked up to a cheating husband whose guilt had manifested itself in paranoid behavior.

When something stands out as notably “bad” in a place like this, you know there is something seriously wrong: In this case, it was the terrifying bathrooms. The towels reeked of burnt hair from three feet away. The showerhead was ancient and grimy, and the shower/tub combo was covered in mildew. A cheap pressure-flush toilet had stray hairs caked to it. After over an hour of snapping photos and exploring, both Rachel and I had an intense urge to leave and shower immediately.

Takes the "Kleen" out of "Kleenex" - The Love Nest Room at the Kew Motor Inn; New York, NY


Our altercation with the pimp took place just as we were leaving the hotel. On our hurry out the door, we also noticed a man giddily walking down the hallway with an ice bucket, an older couple hugging in the lobby, and two drunk men loudly talking on cell phones trying to get women to come meet them. It wasn’t until we were a few miles down the Grand Central Parkway that Rachel and I were able to process what we had just seen. When news of the hotel’s closure came up, all of the memories of our experience rushed back: from the scantily clad women in the lobby to the pimp in the hallway, it wasn’t surprising as much as it was shocking it had taken police this long to get wise to what was going on there.

The way I see it, at least the pimp was a friendly one.

See the full review and more photos on >>



{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Captain Carl April 2, 2012 at 1:19 pm

I felt like I needed a hot shower and serious loofah scrub after reading this.

fifiwereking April 4, 2012 at 4:36 pm

it is unlikely that the KEW is closed forever… the law that gave the city the power to close the hotel only authorizes closing it for a maximum of one year..

they will probably pay a hefty penalty and re-open in a month or two…

WWVD April 7, 2012 at 10:41 pm

NYC native. This place has been a whore house for at least thirty years. Must have refused to pay off so they got heat lol.

Steve April 8, 2012 at 6:45 am

I am 64 years old and I grew up about half a mile away in the neighborhhod adjacent to the hotel. It was built when I was in college and it quickly became known as an hourly motel (although I believe it was legitimate when it first opened). I’m surprised that authorities never knew what was going on there.

MondoSci April 8, 2012 at 12:38 pm

Lovely as an expose’ as this might be, a moment of contemplation, perhaps . . . though I do appreciate the bits of drama you inserted into the copy (“I think my shirt has hepatitis”)

Ever been out to the SF bay area in California? How about any variety of places all over the world?

My point being, this is news???

You were pondering “why” it took the police so long to catch up with the “now defunct” Kew Motor Inn.

In numerous such locales, the “police” are in on the game, they get their cut like everyone else connected to these enterprises.

This is not my cup of tea by any stretch of the imagination, but really . . . y’all need to get out a bit more, see how the world really is.

Mimi April 9, 2012 at 10:57 am

Yes, this may have been a place for prostitution but a lot of regular folk go there too. Prostitution is not the only thing that kept this place in business for the past 30 years. Additionally, when you have children and are out in the dating world, places like these are where you end up sometimes when you don’t have tons of time to spare because you need to get back to the babysitter. And the KEW, by far, is nicer than any of the other short stay places. The themed rooms are corny, but cute, and you can actually order food and drinks there. I hope that it is able to open again soon (without the pimps and hos of course). :)

Mimi April 9, 2012 at 11:08 am

In addition, I find it interesting that the author witnessed a pimp banging on a door but I’d never seen anything like that in 20 years… I’m wondering how much of this is embellished.

Rachel April 9, 2012 at 11:19 am

Hi Mimi! This is actually 100% true. No embellishments here!

Marie April 16, 2012 at 3:58 am

Im sad this place got shut down. It was a tradition for me and my boyfriend to go there on our birthdays. I assure you I am not a prostitute and bringing our own sheets to lay on, flip flops for the shower and our own towels kept us from contracting anything… i hope. I mean where else would two college students who live with their parents go? The leather seats of my boyfriends car don’t exactly turn me on. I dont know, its not as bad as you’ve made it sound. I hope it reopens soon (like mimi said without the pimps and hoes).. my boyfriends birthday is coming up ;)

charles napier April 17, 2012 at 4:17 pm

I thought the place was closed it is open again that is for sure open again after a week or so

I know everything April 27, 2012 at 9:03 am

With the housing shortage that is experienced in NYC someone probably payed off someone in the DA’s office to get these joints shut down so that someone else can develop.them into condos.

KC May 1, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Mimi, I agree with you. I’ve been living in Queens for 31 years, and I remember back in the day when I was in my 20s and single in the 80s, everybody used to go there for a minute, lol. I knew so many people (all good working class,nice people, not ho’s or pimps or druggies) who used to go to the Kew for some action after a date, even married people who would have a babysitter for the nite to go out and have some adult fun without the kiddies around. That’s good for a marriage! We were not ho’s either, just young and if you had kids or still lived with your parents, there was no other place to go to have a lil fun with your man unless he had his own place. Back then, I don’t remember it being a place where there were pimps and ho’s. Maybe in recent years, it became more of that type of place. I had a lot of good times there and so did alot of my friends, and I agree the rooms were corny but cute. I think the ladies who wrote this article need to loosen up a bit and get out more often. Seedy sex hotels have been around for years and years in all the boros. Get over it, lol. I also didn’t think the Kew was seedy back then.

Zoe July 19, 2012 at 5:37 pm

Tis a shame it’s closed down. I’ll miss it’s seedy charm.
Here’s a photo from a shoot I did there a few years ago in the Arabian Nights room:

ANEITA May 1, 2013 at 11:52 am


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