Checking out Brooklyn's Hotel Le Bleu
In the 1990s, the Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope experienced an unprecedented gentrification, led in part by New York City lesbians and gays and more broadly by artists, young professionals, hipsters, families, and others. They appreciated the neighborhood's iconic Prospect Park and relatively unheralded Brooklyn Museum. And they began buying, fixing up, or renting Park Slope's hundreds of elegant brownstones and redbrick townhouses, enjoying the proximity to multiple subway lines in Manhattan and increasing numbers of inviting cafes, pubs, and boutiques along the neighborhood's commercial thoroughfares (primarily 7th and 5th avenues). Brooklyn even saw the opening of a few gay and lesbian bars, some of which, such as Excelsior, remain popular to this day. Park Slope is also the site of a fast-growing Brooklyn Pride Celebration each June.
Until very recently, what Park Slope - and most of Brooklyn, for that matter - lacked was a hotel. Relatively few tourists to Manhattan ventured into Brooklyn's increasingly cool neighborhoods, including Park Slope, because there wasn't a place to stay. For Park Slope, this changed late in 2007 with the opening of a modern, downright stylish, and genuinely inviting lodging, a 48-room mid-rise called the Hotel Le Bleu.
Upscale by Brooklyn standards but very reasonably priced compared with similarly outfitted Manhattan hotels, Hotel Le Bleu has a great deal going for it - a caring and friendly staff, easy walking proximity to Park Slope nightlife and dining, a short stroll to subway lines, and extremely large rooms (particularly by NYC standards) with a hip yet well-thought-out design, plenty of complimentary perks, and something virtually unheard of among the city's hotels: secure, free, off-street parking. Brooklyn would be America's fifth-largest city were it a separate municipality - here's your chance to get to know this colorful borough and one of its most gay-popular neighborhoods, while still enjoying relatively easy access to Manhattan. Overall, Hotel Le Bleu delivers plenty of value and panache - it's a terrific property.
- Airy, well-designed rooms (some with balconies, and many with views of the Manhattan skyline) are comfy and rife with extras: 42-inch plasma TVs with Bose sound systems and iPod docking stations, free WiFi, minibars stocked with complimentary snacks, large walk-in showers, and super-comfy beds with 300-thread-count linens.
- The staff seems to go the extra mile here - they know that for many guests, staying in Park Slope is a new experience, and they work extra hard to dispense advice and help guests.
- Rates are below average for New York City.
- Free parking - this is just plain impossible to find at NYC hotels, and driving to Park Slope is far less harrowing for the uninitiated than navigating Manhattan streets.
- The 4th Avenue and 9th Street subway, with service on the Manhattan-bound F, M, and R trains, is just five blocks away.
- 4th Avenue lacks curb appeal - it's mostly the domain of workaday stores, bodegas, and a few random new high-rise developments. It's a part of Park Slope in the midst of a rejuvenation, and it's perfectly safe, but it's not all that pretty (still, the hotel is just a block away from where things do get pretty).
- It's a new hotel with a few idiosyncrasies - somewhat wonky keys that doors and elevators occasionally reject, European-style shower plumbing that can take a little effort to figure out. Again, the staff couldn't be more helpful, but if you're used to old-school traditional hotels, Hotel Le Bleu might take a little getting used to.
- As cool as Brooklyn is, and especially Park Slope, keep in mind that you're staying 15- to 20 minutes from Lower Manhattan by subway, and as much as 45 minutes by train from Midtown. If you're really planning to spend 80% of your time in Manhattan, you may find the location a bit inconvenient.
Address, phone, and web: 370 4th Ave., Brooklyn, NY, 718-625-1500); book online at the hotel's web reservations page. The hotel is set back from 4th Avenue with a sizable parking lot in front. It's a block from the bars, cafes, and shops on 5th Avenue, and a 15-minute walk from Prospect Park. The neighborhood is quite safe (as NYC goes - obviously, exercise prudence as you would in any big city).
Rates: Rates begin around $179 per night for standard rooms but will run a bit higher during busier times, or for the largest units with balconies.
Rooms and notable in-amenities: 48 rooms with plush bedding, minibars with generous free snacks, in-room coffee service, work desks, iPod docks, 42-inch TVs with Bose DVD systems, free WiFi and Web TV, and high-end bath amenities.
Noteworthy hotel amenities: A simple Continental breakfast and free parking are included in the rates; there's a small 24/7 business center, and the staff can provide full concierge services; the hotel was, as of this writing, in the midst of adding a sleek new on-site restaurant and lounge called Vue, on the 8th and 9th floors (the restaurant will also provide room service).