It isn’t just our imagination that a new hotel opens in New York almost every week. This week Major Michael R. Bloomberg announced that by the time 2011 departs New York City’s hotel room tally will reach 90,000 – a 24 percent increase over 2006.
And the building boom continues. Over the next two and a half years, a spate of new hotels will deposit an additional 7,000 rooms on the market. Among them are the Conrad, opening in January in the former Embassy Suites Battery Park, the Willow Hotel group’s 120 West 57, the Park Hyatt across the street at 157 West 57th Street, the Four Seasons Downtown, and the Residence Inn and Courtyard by Marriott combo to be housed in a 68-story tower – the city’s tallest hotel – on West 54th Street and Broadway. And that’s just in Manhattan.
The big news is location. Forty percent of the newcomers are in the outer boroughs, notably Brooklyn and Queens, particularly Long Island City, the once-industrial, newly-hip stretch across the East River with drop-dead views of Manhattan (and lower prices). Long Island City is home to 17 hotels (1,500 rooms), including chains like Four Points by Sheraton, Fairfield Inn and Holiday Inn, and independents like the Ravel, the Queensboro Hotel, the Verve and the Z NYC, the lucky hotel that supplied the rooftop backdrop for the mayor’s announcement. Five more properties, aka 650 more rooms, are under construction.
A decade ago the outer boroughs were a hotel wasteland, sparsely populated
with cheesy motels, airport hotels and not much else. The pioneering Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge was deemed adventurous when it opened in 1998 (the name tethered it to Manhattan, just to be safe). Brooklyn now bustles with chains and indies alike, from the Sheraton and Aloft Brooklyn to the Nu-Hotel, Hotel le Bleu and the much talked-about Hotel Williamsburg, which opened November 1.
For thrifty visitors, an outer borough hotel can be a gift. Rooms tend to be bigger than in Manhattan, but prices aren’t. Rooms at the Marriott Brooklyn Bridge currently start at $229, Aloft Brooklyn at $169 and $279 at the high-concept Hotel Williamsburg. Meanwhile, the rooms at Z NYC, replete with feather beds, free WiFi and a buzzy bar scene, start at $165. (Keep in mind these low-ball prices aren’t available every day.)
The downside to an outer borough is . . . you’re in an outer borough. Z NYC owner Henry Zilberman describes Long Island City as “affordable, quiet and safe” and touts its offbeat location as central. “You can be in Manhattan or at the airport in 15 minutes.”
But the hotels are banking that the outers – or at least some of them — will become destinations. Trendy Williamsburg leads the pack, but with the Noguchi Museum, MoMA PS1 and the newly renovated Museum of the Moving Image Long Island City is moving up. But let no borough be left behind. The Bronx and Staten Island each have a new hotel going up.
After all, New York hosted a record 48.8 million visitors last year and is on track to equal that in 2011. They’ve got to stay somewhere.