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Insider: New York Hotels

UPDATED NOVEMBER 2002

At 65,000 and counting, New York has more hotel rooms than most American towns have people. These days, visitors are arriving in record numbers, and more and more developers are eager to see them into bed. Hoteliers are encroaching on new territory—from Tribeca to Harlem—and pushing the limits of technology. Say good-bye to cookie-cutter Queen Anne, as lobbies morph into hip gathering places for locals and travelers alike--one downtown owner calls his hotel "a twenty-first-century town square." Here's the buzz, from the best gym to the best gin martini.

classics reborn
Le Parker Meridien (118 W. 57th St.; 212/245-5000; doubles from $380) turns its back on Biedermeier with up-to-date ergonomic designs in all its guest rooms (including curvilinear desks and Aeron chairs). The Shoreham (33 W. 55th St.; 212/247-6700; doubles from $275) reopened last September, its groove factor upped a notch courtesy of ultrasuede walls and shoji-style doors. The Roger Williams (131 Madison Ave.; 212/448-7000; doubles from $240), at age 72, is showing off its first face-lift. The Peninsula New York (700 Fifth Ave.; 212/956-2888; doubles from $535), thanks to a $45 million top-to-bottom overhaul, has suites as vast as pre-war apartments. The Essex House is adding the St. Regis Club (160 Central Park S.; 212/247-0300; doubles from $525), an adjoining tower of cushy suites with butler service.

new arrivals
The neighborhood's industrial-loft ethos sets the stage at the 203-room TriBeCa Grand (2 Ave. of the Americas; 212/519-6600; doubles from $375), newborn sibling of the SoHo Grand. At Hotel Giraffe (365 Park Ave. S.; 212/685-7700; doubles from $325), the long-necked theme doesn't go beyond subtle touches—on the notepads, for instance—but the creature's grace is successfully captured in all 94 rooms. The 12-story 60 Thompson (60 Thompson St.; 212/431-0400; doubles from $335) opened in 2000 on one of SoHo's quietest streets. The Dylan (52 E. 41st St.; 212/338-0500; doubles from $295) is a Beaux-Arts boutique hotel in the former Chemists' Club building. Across the street from Lincoln Center, the old Chinese Mission to the United Nations has been transformed into the Phillips Club (155 W. 66th St.; 212/835-8800; doubles from $400), a 188-suite, half-residential hotel. Guests have free access to the Reebok Sports Club/NY.

on the horizon
Ian Schrager's Hudson Hotel (353 W. 57th St.) opens in September with rooms starting at $95 and a massive sports center; in October 2000, the American Radiator Building became the Bryant Park (40 W. 40th St.). The city's fourth W is underway on Union Square (Park Ave. South at 17th St.; 877/946-8357). Next year, watch for a Ritz-Carlton in Battery Park City and one in the old St. Moritz on Central Park South. Also coming: the Greenwich Village Hotel, in the Meatpacking District.

bars
Even cynical New Yorkers find it hard to resist the whiff of romantic transience in a hotel bar. But romance aside, the latest crop of hotel bars is luring them in with pure moxie:

The Chelsea Hotel's Serena (222 W. 23rd St.; 212/255-4646) is a moody, underground lounge whose list of regulars rivals the hotel's roster of famous guests. At the new Feinstein's (540 Park Ave.; 212/339-4095), a cabaret bar in the Regency, presiding talent Michael Feinstein and crooners such as Rosemary Clooney dish out nightly ear candy. The after-work scene at the Shoreham Bar (33 W. 55th St.; 212/247-6700) is a blue-lit haze of suits and Manolo Blahniks. Head to the new M Bar (12 W. 44th St.; 212/277-8888), in the Mansfield, for cocktails and caviar. Down the street at the Algonquin, the refurbished Blue Bar (59 W. 44th St.; 212/840-6800) has retained its literary spirits, while wisely doing away with the Cheez Doodles.

hotel or gallery?
In an unusual display of artistic awareness, the Embassy Suites Battery Park City (102 North End Ave.; 212/945-0100) and the Hilton Times Square (234 W. 42nd St.; 212/840-8222), with help from the New York-based Public Art Fund, have commissioned A-list artists to fill their lobbies and guest rooms. Among the works: Sol LeWitt's Loopy Doopy, an 80-by-100-foot blue-and-purple panel in the Embassy Suites atrium, and in the Hilton's guest rooms, idealized portraits of celebrities cum pop stars (Prince William, JFK Jr.) by Elizabeth Peyton.

what we love
The new FUHGETTABOUDIT do-not-disturb signs at Le Parker Meridien (118 W. 57th St.; 212/245-5000)—a step up from last year's GO AWAY. • The library in the Sherry-Netherland (781 Fifth Ave.; 212/355-2800), stocked with practically every book that's ever made the New York Times best-seller list. • The pillow menu at the new Benjamin (125 E. 50th St.; 212/715-2500), with a choice of fillings—feathers, buckwheat, water—as well as hot neck rolls and five-foot body cushions.

animal house
Pets are people too! That's what they think at the SoHo Grand (310 W. Broadway; 212/965-3000), with its puppy bar out front. Swissôtel New York-The Drake (440 Park Ave.; 212/421-0900) has in-room dog-sitters and canine treats by the restaurant's pastry chef. The Mark (25 E. 77th St.; 212/744-4300) celebrated a dog wedding last winter. Odd, you say?Two penguins, a cheetah, and a kangaroo have all spent the night at the Mayflower Hotel on the Park (15 Central Park West; 212/265-0060).

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