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Although the growing attractions of Brooklyn and Queens have been luring visitors for several years, the outer boroughs haven’t been seen as a base for tourists—until now. As ever-rising rents push young creative types out of Manhattan, and formerly diverse areas are homogenized by national chains, visitors in search of New York’s bohemian spirit may find the atmosphere they crave off-island. In Brooklyn, Williamsburg and Bushwick have adventurous music and art scenes, while Boerum Hill, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill and Park Slope are great for dining and shopping. In Queens, Long Island City is an evolving art destination with a rising number of hip watering holes. Supply is keeping up with demand: Since 2008, more than 40 per cent of new hotel development has been outside Manhattan.
Now that apartments in Brooklyn’s prime neighborhoods are fetching millions of dollars, it was inevitable that boutique hotels would follow. The first two opened in late 2007: Hotel Le Bleu has easy access to the cultural and commercial riches of Park Slope, while Williamsburg’s Hotel Le Jolie allows indie music fans the chance to spend the night in the hot spot after a gig. Newcomer King & Grove Williamsburg, which launched as Hotel Williamsburg in fall 2011, raised the bar with a 40-foot outdoor pool serviced by a cocktail bar, but the Wythe Hotel, created by a team that includes a popular local restaurateur, truly captures the neighborhood’s hip factor. Boerum Hill’s Nu Hotel is near Smith Street’s many restaurants and the shops of Atlantic Avenue, while a new outpost of W Hotels spin-off Aloft is conveniently located near premier arts hub Brooklyn Academy of Music. Those who want to experience loft living in Bushwick’s cutting-edge art enclave should check into the New York Loft Hostel.
In Queens, Long Island City’s rampant residential development is spreading to hotels. Visitors are discovering that rooms here offer something Manhattan properties can never have: a million-dollar view of the skyline from the other side of the river. Although its industrial surroundings are somewhat desolate, Ravel, a complete rebuild of an existing motel, occupies a prime spot on the waterfront beside the Queensboro Bridge, and capitalizes on it with a sprawling rooftop bar-restaurant. The decor in the rooms isn't exceptional (touches such as orange faux-ostrich headboards and spacious limestone and granite bathrooms announce it as boutique), but, as with any rental in New York, you get more bang for your buck in the outer boroughs: The open-plan superior rooms are a whopping 550 square feet. In summer 2011, Israeli entrepreneur Henry Zilberman went one better with the nearby Z New York Hotel, a new 11-story structure designed by architect Andres Escobar, with each of the 100 rooms facing the river. The roof terrace (outfitted with sleek Design Within Reach furniture) offers 360-degree panoramas and a bar complete with a pizza oven to dispense hot pies along with the drinks.