More international visitors are flocking to the Big Apple this year than last — a 13.6 percent jump to 13.1 million, up from 12.6 million in 2016, Bloomberg reported this past week. Great! Now we can look forward to giving directions to even more dazed foreigners at Rockefeller Center who stop us to ask for directions to Rockefeller Center.
Happy “New York State of Mind!”
More visitors aren’t just annoying to locals who have to share the same space on the subways and streets, especially during the holiday season. They are creating a demand for hotels that threatens to lay waste to the entire city.
New York has 115,000 hotel rooms today, compared with a mere 76,400 in 2008. New hotels scheduled to open in the next three years will add an estimated 18,960 more rooms — part of the biggest sustained hotel-building surge since the 1920s-30s. The rise of Airbnb hasn’t made a dent.
Hotel development used to be a good thing. New hotels helped to revitalize Central Harlem and Brooklyn’s Gowanus. They created jobs and still do. But now, the dark side is taking over. Beloved old stores, cafes and even homes are falling to make way for buildings that house short-stay transients who neither live nor work here.
According to the Real Deal magazine this past week, an RIU hotel on West 47th Street will rise, not to its originally planned 28 stories, but likely to 48 — a growth spurt that will leave a huge, empty pit for two years while its developer, Tribeach Associates, works to acquire the additional air rights.
The RIU is one of three big hotels coming to West 47th and West 48th streets between Sixth and Seventh avenues. Those projects have already felled once-beloved businesses like the original Sam Ash music stores and the Evergreen diner.
Just what we need instead of friendly groceries, diners and shops: overpriced lobby “bistros” set off by wheatgrass planters and rooftop bars with “unique” views. Did we mention the NFL Experience (“standard admission” $39) opening this month at the Edition by Marriott Times Square, which will offer visitors a “hero’s journey where they enter as a fan, become a player, and leave a champion?”
The new Hotel 50 Bowery, at that address, has a fine place to eat and a rooftop lounge with eye-popping views. But its 21-story glass façade looms like a wayward dragon over low-rise Chinatown. Its near-300 rooms will flood the compact, colorful district with big spenders certain to overwhelm its exotic but fragile chemistry.
In the West 30s, a jillion basic-service inns, lacking restaurants, bars or stores, shattered the Garment District’s moody mystique while offering locals nothing.
Others offer too many places to eat and drink — as in the Chelsea/Meatpacking District area, where 24-hour party scenes spill from the Standard, Dream and Maritime hotels’ roof bars, underground discos and beer gardens. Although plans haven’t been fully revealed, the under-construction Virgin Hotel on Broadway at 28th Street will likely add to that area’s oversaturation, putting eateries and lounges near those already at the Ace and NoMad hotels.
The most irksome new hotels are the ones built mainly to help developers sell luxury condos in the towers on top of them. The Park Hyatt on West 57th Street has a mere 210 guest rooms, The Four Seasons on Barclay Street 189 rooms, and the Baccarat on East 53rd Street just 114 — to provide “five-star hotel services” to the oligarchs who dwell above them.
Real-estate developers shouldn’t take too much comfort in Manhattan’s nation-high occupancy of near-90 percent and the flood of foreign visitors. How much guests pay for their rooms matters, too. Thanks to mushrooming over-supply, nightly room rates are down 10-20 percent over two years ago. So is “RevPAR,” or revenue per available room — the gold-standard metric of success.
Checkout time’s coming — but not before more wheatgrass-filled lobbies gobble up the streets we loved, and make life less fun for the people who actually call New York City home....Read more