Life In Motion
Grab today’s New York Times to read this great article about the hotel market in Queens & Brooklyn!
The New York City hotel market managed to defy the slump most of the country experienced during and after the recession.
Occupancy rates in the city were 85 percent last year, compared with a national average of 60 percent. And despite a tough market for financing, at least 15 hotels opened in the five boroughs in 2011 — roughly half of them outside Manhattan. From 2006 to 2011, 42 percent of the city’s new hotels were built in the outer boroughs, according to data from NYC & Company, the local tourism organization.
Brooklyn’s hotel building boom began a few years ago, and competitors continue to pop up around the borough, mostly focused in popular neighborhoods like Williamsburg and the up-and-coming downtown.
Lately, Long Island City in Queens has become another hotel hot spot, as guests trade the congestion of Midtown for skyline views and cheaper prices, just one subway stop from Manhattan.
“My idea was to offer proximity, a good view and a good value,” said Henry Zilberman, the owner of Z NYC Hotel, which opened in Long Island City last July. “We try to be about 30 to 40 percent off a similar hotel in Manhattan — that’s our draw.”
Easy access to Manhattan has become part of the standard pitch for borough hotels, which count subway stops and list nearby trains prominently on their Web sites. Free Internet access is practically a universal amenity outside Manhattan, and a rooftop bar with a view follows close behind.
Mr. Zilberman includes free domestic and international phone calls and says he is catering to the “Apple crowd”: guests toting MacBooks and iPads. He built the 100-room hotel on land he bought in 1996 to park cars for his limousine business.
Long Island City’s advantages include quick trips to La Guardia and Kennedy airports; new restaurants and parks that have joined nearby cultural attractions like MoMA PS1, the Museum of the Moving Image and Socrates Sculpture Park; and proximity to film and television production facilities like Silvercup Studios. Citigroup’s office tower is also a factor for developers, who like to locate hotels near commercial hubs.
Other recent additions to Long Island City include the boutique Hotel Vetiver, which opened in January, and a Four Points by Sheraton that had its debut last May, promoting Manhattan skyline views. A Wyndham Garden hotel welcomed its first guests this spring, and Marriott is putting the finishing touches on a Fairfield Inn & Suites, which is scheduled to open this summer. Marriott was a pioneer in the outer boroughs, with a 666-room hotel that opened in 1998 near the Brooklyn Bridge that dominated the market long before newer competitors arrived. But these days, smaller midmarket properties are more typical, even in Manhattan, because it is still a challenge to get financing to build a large luxury hotel.
“It’s easier to build these small hotels that are moderately priced because they’re less expensive,” said John Wolf, a Marriott spokesman. “And you get a return on your investment more quickly.”
While the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott still captures big event and conference business — it was just named the official hotel of the Barclays Center, the new Nets arena — downtown Brooklyn’s hotel center has been shifting to Duffield Street, where Sheraton and Aloft have opened properties in the last two years.
The 128-room Hotel 718 is set to join them on Duffield Street this spring, with amenities that include a spa, a rooftop deck and a restaurant called the Marrow, run by Harold Dieterle and Alicia Nosenzo, co-owners of Kin Shop and Perilla in the West Village.
“That street in particular is going to be kind of a hotel row,” said Brian Dunne, the director of marketing for Benchmark Hospitality International, the operator of Hotel 718.
With all the residential development in the area, Mr. Dunne said downtown Brooklyn was becoming more of an evening destination, rather than a neighborhood that empties out when municipal and corporate workers go home.
Hotel 718 is part of a more upscale wave of independent hotels opening in Brooklyn, with a carefully fashioned restaurant or bar that aims to attract locals as well as hotel guests. And those guests tend to be more stylish and wealthier travelers, not just budget-conscious visitors who cannot afford to stay near Times Square.
“Brooklyn isn’t being viewed as the less expensive option to Manhattan,” Mr. Dunne said. “It’s a place people are starting to want to come to first rather than second.”
The quarry for hotel developers in Williamsburg is the travelers at the vanguard of fashion, music and design.
The 64-room King & Grove Williamsburg opened on North 12th Street last November, hoping to attract international travelers and the creative set. Originally named the Hotel Williamsburg, the property was recently bought by King & Grove, which also owns Ruschmeyer’s in Montauk and the Tides South Beach in Miami.
Some rooms have balconies overlooking the outdoor pool, and the new owners are working on a rooftop bar and shifting to a more casual focus for the restaurant.
“We’ve kind of become a retreat for parents who are visiting their 30-year-old son who just had his first kid with his wife,” said Maggie Houston, a spokeswoman for King & Grove. “We really do have a pretty big mix at the hotel.”
Just down the street, the 72-room Wythe Hotel plans to open in May, in a former factory on the Williamsburg waterfront. The guest room options include two “band rooms” that sleep four or six people in bunk beds, and the hotel’s restaurant, Reynards, is run by Andrew Tarlow, of the popular area restaurants Marlow & Sons and Diner.
Other hotels are venturing into less-trafficked parts of Brooklyn: a Fairfield Inn & Suites opened last July on Third Avenue in Gowanus. And Hotel BPM is expected to open later this spring on 33rd Street in Sunset Park.
Developed by the hip-hop D.J. Bijal Panwala, Hotel BPM — as in “beats per minute” — streams a soundtrack selected by the owner in its public spaces. Soundproofed guest rooms offer an amenity many travelers will appreciate: laptop-size safes.
Sean Hennessey, the chief executive of Lodging Advisors, which evaluates the financial prospects of hotels, said one cloud over the otherwise sunny New York City market was that prices had not matched the strength of occupancy rates.
“In 2011, room rates were still 18 percent below where they were in 2007,” Mr. Hennessey said, adding that hotels in Brooklyn or Queens command rates that are $50 to $60 less than a property of comparable quality in Manhattan.
“That’s good for travelers,” he said. “But not as good for hotel developers.”
Still, Mr. Hennessey said, areas outside Manhattan are well suited to the midprice hotels that are popular now and can often be built on a faster timetable.
“You can get a project up and running somewhat easier in the boroughs,” he said, “which I think is why we’re seeing more interest there.”
Unless you were living under a Central Park rock yesterday, you experienced the marathon madness. Here at The Industry, people stopped by our open house while waiting to see a friend or loved one run through the Queens streets. Long Island City was packed! And The New York Times took notice. This morning’s article by C.J. Hughes, “Along the Route, Neighborhood Snapshots of New York’s Progression,” chronicles the change in LIC over the last few decades. Here are excerpts:
“As dusk fell, a woman, head to toe in black, bounded down the sidewalk, with a leash in one hand and a baby tucked against her chest. By the curb, two men in suits loudly debated the stock market. And at a Mexican bistro, patrons sipped Chardonnay from stemless glasses under graffiti framed as art.
Ordinary stuff, maybe, for many New York neighborhoods. But this lively mix of bar-goers and Wall Streeters and harried parents was percolating on Vernon Boulevard, in Long Island City, Queens, a highway-bordered neighborhood that until recently seemed to function largely as a giant parking lot.
In 1976, when the New York City Marathon first trudged through Long Island City en route from Staten Island to Manhattan, the area had an even more pungent industrial flavor. A common sight at night then wasn’t stockbrokers but trucks, lots of them, rumbling from low-slung warehouses down dark streets with cargoes of bread, beer and soda.”
“The transformation of Long Island City, from a vast asphalt expanse into a neighborhood rich with luxury two-bedroom condos, is just one startling stop on the city’s remade and repopulated landscape. Charred blocks are now flush with trees. Discos have given way to pharmacies. Immigrant groups have faded, to be replaced by arrivals of new colors. The gulf between rich and poor has blown open.
Sure, one could pick any thoroughfare in the city, or devise your own 26-mile spin through New York, and note change. But the marathon’s route, year in and year out, draws runners from across the globe and declares, in its punishing and entertaining way, ‘This is New York.’”
“Long Island City’s changed character and altered look are a testament to that rezoning and the rebuilding that has come as a consequence. Yes, there are still myriad taxi depots, used-car lots and garages. Not to mention that huge billboards, for department stores, orange juice and cellphones, catch the eyes of commuters on the Long Island Expressway below.
But people who ran the route in the ’70s no doubt do double takes these days. Developers have recently lined Jackson Avenue with angular condos. A complex known as Hunters View was built over an auto-parts store. One Vernon Jackson rose over a razed glue factory. And One Hunters Point, on Borden Avenue, stands in the footprint of a parking lot where children a couple of generations back played touch football.
Adding so much sizzle to a sleepy city corner has charmed some business owners like Sung Park, 52, a deli owner on Vernon since 1988.
In 2009, he decided the neighborhood had changed enough that he could move beyond selling soda and sandwiches. He opened a museum on 50th Avenue, formally known as Underpenny Antiques, where his collection of 19th-century cast-iron pot holders, some 200 of them, are on display. Oh, and you can buy an oil painting there, too.
‘Years ago, you couldn’t tell cabdrivers ‘Long Island City,’ so we would tell them to go to the Midtown Tunnel tollgate,’ he said. ‘But now they know where to go.’”
Just a few blocks from The Industry is Silvercup Studios, New York City’s largest production facility. Founders Stuart and Alan Suna bought the main building with their father in 1981, and it is now a staple of the LIC community, home to TV shows, films, and commercials. The Suna brothers are also the developers of The Industry, and like Silvercup, their luxury condos speak to the vibrancy and history of Long Island City.
Here is an excerpt from a Time Out NY article about Silvercup:
“No matter the project, the raw talent generated at Silvercup is a testament to New York’s reputation as another film and television capital—so much so that industry insiders have nicknamed our city “Hollywood East.” On a stroll through the 260,000-square-foot main lot, you may find a clique of sexy Upper East Side socialites plotting dating fatwas as Gossip Girl tapes its fifth season. Elsewhere, Liz Lemon might be grimacing as she listens to Tracy Jordan’s latest rant on the set of 30 Rock. And even behind the scenes—within the rented offices, wardrobe closets, set and prop rooms—there’s a continual hum of energy as crew members and executives hurry from one space to the next. Gossip Girl co-executive producer Amy Kaufman loves the “collegial and communal feeling” among different casts and crews. “There was a day when 30 Rock shot on one of our sets, and we tried to get some of our actors over there as a gag,” she says with a laugh.”
Check out the New York Times video about Silvercup: