11101 Travel Guide
If you want to talk about one NYC neighborhood finally getting the development love it deserves, then it's gotta be the north end of Long Island City. Fresh highrises have sprouted up in just the last year, including the Z Hotel, and there are other we're eyeing daily for an answer on if they'll be hotels or condos. Add to this the addition of JetBlue's headquarters to the area (in a building with a history as an old Rolls Royce plant) and it's plain that the area around both the Queensboro Plaza and Queens Plaza subway stops is hot stuff.
So, it really comes as no surprise that the 3-story former bank building at Queens Plaza Northnext to a newly completed pedestrian park plaza and bike path and just down from a site that once had plans for an Aloft Hotelis about to enter a new era as a budget hotel/hostel.
It doesn't have a name quite yet, but we've spotted bunkbed frames in the rooms and small chandeliers on the ceilings. An online registry only gives the operation company as "2909 Queens Plaza North Hostel Management Inc," but it shouldn't be too much longer until the flashy color-changing exterior lights are paired with a sign. And don't worrywe'll keep you updated as to when that happens and how much opening rates will be.
OK, so we can all agree Queens is making some strides in the hotel department. Though we originally put up a fight in 2010 about trekking so far just to see a rooftop bar, we've since expanded our horizons. For our next visit, however, we're setting our sights a bit closer to the ground.
The Ravel Hotel just announced a new bicycle amenity, the first of its kind by a hotel in the entire borough of Queens. Helping them achieve this goal is Bike New York, a nonprofit that promotes safe bicycling around New York City. Already, we can tell this is going to be a more practical endeavor than W London's celebrity-designed novelty bikes. Wouldn't want to be riding alongside the East River on one of those things!
The Z Hotel had our attention last week when they debuted their 100-room hotel with sky beams, a light-footed Henry Zilberman, and one of the most beautiful views we've seen in a while. For their July 4 bash (which remains invite only, sorry outer borough friends!), they have chosen to enlist the skills of the very same electric violinist who one-upped the DJ at their opening party, Gray Devio.
We've heard of hotels hiring global music directors to oversee the music scene, and once in a while a lounge pianist catches our eye. But a resident electric violinist—who plays on the roof?! This is something new.
We can now confirm with absolute certainty that the newly-opened Z Hotel has alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol. The independently-owned Long Island City hotel celebrated its grand opening with a wild rooftop party on Tuesday night, and—we have to give them credit—the views were killer.
Just take a look at this video to see what we mean. In addition to the freely-flowing liquor, champagne, and beer, pizza was being served out of the oven, a violinist was jamming on the roof, and the dance music was so infectious even the owner, Henry Zilberman, couldn't keep still.
Another boutique hotel pops up this summer in one of New York City's outer boroughs, and—surprise!—it's got a rooftop bar. Long Island City's Z Hotel, a sleek 100-room tower adjacent to the Queensborough Bridge, is almost ready to open its doors, but will the area's total lack of foot traffic spell doom for the much-hyped project? Owner Henry Zilberman, whose background as the owner of a local car service makes him something of an expert on location, is optimistic about the destination's appeal to tourists and business travelers. In a 2007 interview, Zilberman made the convincing case:
"I drive around here all the time, and you can take the Queensboro Bridge and be at Bloomingdale's in three minutes. Even with traffic, it's faster than the subway. It's a mystery to me why it took so long for Long Island City to be discovered."
Renderings of the Z (Z for 'Zilberman,' or for 'zany?') have been circulating on the web for a few years, and now that the whole thing is up, we have to admit, we like it a lot better than the nearby Ravel Hotel's bland exterior. At the Z, balconied walkways are set off by playful multicolored panels, and the grey-brick-and-glass facade is much more at peace with the neighborhood's industrial backdrop. But the question remains: how will a hotel premised on the appeal of its "Gansevoort vibe" make out in such bleak surroundings?
Rooms for early May are currently quoted as low as $139 if you pre-pay and $149 for a refundable room. This being a Four Points property, that price also includes your free wifi and bottled water. There are also a few interesting package deals, including a deal for 40 percent off a second weekend night stay and a package that gives you two free $20 Metrocards for the train for a rate bump of only $10.
So, yes, the hotel is in Long Island City, but numerous subways at Queensboro and Queens Plaza are just three blocks away, making it a legit way to skip out on high Midtown prices while still being a short ride from Manhattan. Plus, as the hotel rightly points out, the views of the city's skyline are much better when you're not looking at them from Manhattan.
With all that talk of turkey and pumpkin pie in November, we almost forgot about oysters. Silly us. We almost forgot about the very thing we were anticipating: the opening of The John Dory Oyster Bar at The Ace Hotel NYC.
59th latest addition to The Ace's ground-floor playground opened not long before Thanksgiving and has been wowing foodies ever since.
Judging from the gushing going on over at Eater NY, it looks like the standout dishes are the razor clam ceviche ($11) and the oyster pan roast with crostini ($15).
November 1. That's the date Ken Friedman, the man behind The Ace Hotel NYC's Michelin-starred The Breslin, hopes to have his second restaurant opened in the same building. We learned this while sitting in the audience at the TimesTalks series from the New York Times, where former NYT dining critic Frank Bruni sat down with a few restauranteurs to talk buzz, and Ken Friedman let some juicy details slip.
We've known since March that this second major Ace Hotel restaurant would be a remix of Friedman's failed fancy seafood spot, The John Dory, but he's had some time with his chef and business partner April Bloomfield to figure out how to give The John Dory a share of The Breslin's buzz once it's a hotel restaurant.
Can you even Believe that what you are looking at above is a true Holiday Inn? And what's even crazier, is that it's an affordable. new one within New York City. When it comes to finding an alternative to the $400+ nightly rates of Manhattan hotels, many travelers think of Brooklyn or New Jersey, but they could be staying a whole lot closer if they considered the Long Island City section of Queens, where this beauty stands tall.
It's the Holiday Inn--Manhattan View, and since those floor-to-ceiling windows face straight to the Manhattan skyline, we're guessing that the hotel lives up to its name. It sits one block away from the subway too, only a couple stops away from Central Park. This area, an "up-and-coming" neighborhood, was supposed to have something of an affordable hotel row here, since there's the Holiday Inn and the Verve Hotel, but a third projectan aloft Hotelcancelled.
OK, this hotel bar is Queens. Let’s get that out in the open right now. But, kids, it’s a rooftop bar. And it’s enclosed and heated. What’s more, it has a name worthy of The Jersey Shore, Penthouse 808, and sits atop a relatively new hotel, the Ravel in (perpetually up-and-coming) Long Island City.
Since we have to wait a few more months for most of New York’s rooftop bars to open—including the new one at The Kimberly Hotel—we thought what the hell? Let’s look at Queens! Except, um, it’s really cold, and we’ll be in Vegas this weekend, and we can’t jump on the subway to check this baby out just yet.
Consider this: Your nice, Midwestern parents are coming to New York City for the weekend, and because you live in the proverbial shoebox, they can't stay with you. And with Manhattan hotel prices as sky high as the Empire State Building, asking your nice, Midwestern parents to shell out $400-plus for the pleasure of being in your company for three nights seems like, well--a lot to ask. So what do you do? Book them in an outer-borough hotel, specifically, in the industrial section of Long Island City, Queens.
How does it turn out, you ask?
New York's five boroughs can easily be equated with select members of the Brady Bunch: Manhattan is so obviously Marsha, Marsha, Marsha! and Brooklyn, with its hipster scene and neighborhoody vibe is paramount to Cindy and her lisp--annoying, but also cute on occasion.
The Bronx, with its northern location, is sort of like when Greg finally landed his own room in the attic and Staten Island is the borough we liken to Jan, since it never gets any respect.
Then there's Queens. Very much the forgotten borough unless its baseball season; sort of like how no one remembers any significant story line for Bobby except the episode where he got to play football with Joe Namath.
Which is why we were so intrigued to learn via Bloomberg News that NYC tourists are venturing to Queens, particularly the Ravel Hotel in Long Island City, as a way to be in close proximity to Manhattan without the Manhattan price tag. (Ravel rates start at about $200.)