I stayed in the Crowne Plaza the same as the tour company but booked direct. Cost about the same as sharing a room via the tour company. They laid on coaches and they left from same hotel so made life easier.
Can't remember what time coaches left. I remember feeling like I was running out of time as we approached Staten Island as traffic slowed but there was plenty of time.
I can't remember how long I had a start and they go off in waves. Think I was second wave. Had plenty of time to use the convinences, bag drop and sit around and relax. Mind you it was freezing and very windy.