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Queens neighborhoods celebrate their industrial roots

This March 6 2013 phoshows view from inside room Z boutique hotel Long IslCity Queens borough New York. The Z

This March 6, 2013 photo shows the view from inside a room at the Z, a boutique hotel in Long Island City, in the Queens borough of New York. The Z is one of 20 hotels in the neighborhood that are luring tourists to the Queens side of the East River with moderate prices. Every room has a view of Manhattan’s skyline and the Ed Koch Queensborough Bridge, also known as the 59th Street Bridge. Tourists will also find museums, waterfront parks and good restaurants in the area, along with easy access to Manhattan. (AP Photo/Beth J. Harpaz) ORG XMIT: NYET290

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MOMA PS1:, 22-25 Jackson Ave. at 46th Ave.


Z NYC HOTEL:, 11-01 43rd Ave., Long Island City, or (212)319-7000. Rates vary by date and room; $175-$325.

NYC OUTWARD BOUND CLIMBING WALL:, 29-46 Northern Blvd. Minimum age 12; under 18 with adult only.

EAST RIVER FERRY:, Hunters Point/Long Island City terminal at 54th Avenue and Second Street, $4 five-minute ride to 34th Street, Manhattan.

SUBWAY: From Manhattan, subway routes to Long Island City and Astoria include E or 7 to Court Square and Q or N to stops from Queensborough Plaza to Astoria/Ditmars. (No Q service weekends.)

Updated: May 30, 2013 5:27PM

NEW YORK — A hotel boom is luring tourists out of Manhattan and across the East River to the Queens neighborhood of Long Island City, where 15 hotels have opened since 2006, from boutiques to chains. Many of them boast not just lower rates than hotels in Manhattan but also great views of the city skyline and easy access by subway, taxi or even ferry.

Just don’t be put off by the area’s factories, warehouses, and parking lots — not to mention the towering red and white smokestacks of the nearby Ravenswood power plant. Long Island City and the adjacent neighborhood of Astoria offer many attractions, including waterfront parks, museums and good restaurants, but industrial heritage remains a vibrant part of the local identity.

There’s also a famous bridge here. No, not the Brooklyn Bridge, but the Ed Koch Queensborough Bridge, named for the city’s late mayor but commonly called the 59th Street Bridge. Simon & Garfunkel fans may recall that the 1960s song “Feelin’ Groovy” was subtitled “The 59th Street Bridge Song.” Many Long Island City hotels offer views of the picturesque bridge with its delicately undulating beige spans connecting Queens to Manhattan (just a five-minute ferry ride) across the water.

Nhi Pham, 21, a student from Orlando, Fla., stayed at the Z NYC Hotel in Long Island City recently after finding a $139 rate on Groupon. “The hotel room had one wall that was all windows and it was so nice waking up to that amazing Manhattan skyline and view of the bridge without having to pay a really high price for it,” she said. prices for two-star hotels in Long Island City for a Saturday in March ranged from $139 to $209, compared to $143 to $349 on Manhattan’s East Side near Grand Central Terminal. The growth in Queens hotels has coincided with a push by NYC & Company, the city’s tourism agency, to bring visitors to the boroughs outside Manhattan.

Many points of interest in Long Island City and neighboring Astoria are related to the area’s industrial heritage. The famous Steinway piano factory opened in Astoria in the 1870s; today, free factory tours ( fill up months in advance. One of Long Island City’s best-known landmarks is a bright red Pepsi-Cola sign on the waterfront, visible from across the river in Manhattan. The sign once marked a local soda bottling plant; the plant closed but the sign was preserved in Gantry Plaza State Park, which offers boardwalks, piers and skyline views.

Filmmaking is another local industry. The Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria is housed in a building that was part of a 1920s film studio that made silent and early sound films. The studio was revived three decades ago as Kaufman Astoria Studios; modern production credits range from “Sesame Street” to “Men in Black 3.” The museum’s artifacts range from early cameras and projectors to costumes and props from “Star Wars.” Screenings include silent movies with live music, classics and the avant-garde. The museum’s hands-on exhibits are especially fun: Play old arcade games like Pac-Man, dub your voice into a clip of Dorothy from the original “Wizard of Oz” or put rock music into the soundtrack of an old Western movie.

A few blocks away, the Noguchi Museum ( offers a sublime collection of the late Isamu Noguchi’s spare, modernist stone sculptures, along with a compelling film about the artist’s career and childhood. Nearby, the waterfront Socrates Sculpture Park displays work outdoors by various contemporary artists.

Another major destination for art-lovers is MoMA PS1, part of the Museum of Modern Art, located in a former Long Island City public school. Opening in May is a multimedia exhibition with environmental themes. PS1’s extraordinary cafeteria, M. Wells Dinette, is a must for foodies. The menu offers adventurous items like bone marrow tarts along with less edgy fare like borscht, oysters, juniper potato salad and hot toddies.

Speaking of food, ask a New Yorker about Astoria and you may be told, “That’s where you go for Greek food.” Although it’s known as a Greek-American neighborhood, Astoria is quite diverse. For example, Djerdan, a Balkan eatery at 34-04 31st Ave., advertises “Best Burek in Town!” — referring to yummy coiled dough filled with meat, spinach or cheese. Other popular restaurants include The Strand Smokehouse, 25-27 Broadway, for barbecue; Taverna Kyclades, 33-07 Ditmars Blvd., for seafood and Greek standards (expect long waits for tables); and Agnanti, 19-06 Ditmars, named the city’s top Greek restaurant by Greek Reporter USA.

In Long Island City, a trendy, lively bar and eatery at 24-27 Jackson Ave. called Dutch Kills offers artisanal drinks and “bartender’s choice,” where patrons give guidance on what they like but leave it up to the bartender to create interesting cocktails. Head bartender Jan Warren admits that first-time guests are sometimes “a little freaked out” by Dutch Kills’ location on a deserted industrial street with a spooky lit-up “BAR” sign. But inside it is warm and welcoming, and the bartenders put on a great show as they pour, pinch, squeeze, stir and shake ingredients, then present their creations with a flourish and a smile.

Other Long Island City attractions include two places to climb: a five-story outdoor wall at NYC Outward Bound headquarters, and a cavernous new gym called The Cliffs, opening in May. At Astoria Park, you’ll find a skateboard park, jogging track and waterfront paths, along with the city’s largest outdoor swimming pool. AP

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