Howard Johnson hotel slated for 2003 opening in LIC

By Dustin Brown

Long Island City may have scored a few coups lately by luring big-name corporations and museums out of Manhattan, but what happens to the executives and tourists once the sun goes down?

Now one entrepreneur has an answer, tapping into the market of businessmen who schedule 9 a.m. meetings at MetLife and museum-goers eager to catch the morning’s first glimpse of MoMA QNS.

He is opening a hotel.

Amit Gandhi broke ground in June on an eight-story, 81-unit Howard Johnson hotel at 42-24 Crescent St., directly between the 48-story Citibank tower and the converted industrial building now home to about 1,000 MetLife employees. It is expected to open in May 2003.

Gandhi, 28, a resident of the Avalon Riverview apartment tower in Hunters Point, already owns a Howard Johnson on East Houston Street and Second Avenue in Manhattan, which opened Dec. 19 and has fared well despite the hardships endured after Sept. 11. Gandhi believes the market for hotels in Long Island City will only get stronger as time goes by.

“There’s no hotels in Long Island City basically,” said Gandhi, who pointed out the Holiday Inn Express that opened last year at 38-07 Hunters Point Ave. as the only other hotel in the neighborhood. The Best Western City View Motor Inn is also located in Long Island City, at 33-17 Greenpoint Ave.

“There’s a demand for rooms over there,” Gandhi added. “They needed a hotel there and eventually there are going to be more hotels there. I think it’ll be a good investment.”

The hotel’s amenities will include a conference center, fitness center and breakfast area. Gandhi also plans to construct an atrium equipped with a sauna, whirlpool and garden once it begins operating.

Gandhi expects his clients to come from the two major corporations in the neighborhood — Citibank and MetLife — as well as tourists who would ordinarily stay in Manhattan and travelers passing through LaGuardia or Kennedy airports. The hotel will provide a free shuttle service to both airports.

“We wanted to put a hotel there because it’s right next to the Queensboro Bridge where the visibility is there,” Gandhi said. “People crossing the Queensboro Bridge can see the hotel.”

He is also optimistic that the hotel will capitalize on the growth anticipated in the 37-block area of Long Island City that was rezoned last year to encourage high-density, mixed-use development.

Dan Miner, director of business services at Long Island City Business Development Corporation, said a hotel in the neighborhood made good business sense both for Gandhi and for travelers who would likely save a few bucks over accommodations in Manhattan.

“I think that Mr. Gandhi is being very perceptive in understanding the need for a hotel,” Miner said.

“It’s recognizing Long Island City’s increasing prominence as a business center in the city,” he said. “It’s taking advantage of its ease of access both to Midtown Manhattan and to the Queens airports so that business travelers and recreational travelers who might be looking at Midtown Manhattan hotels can instead stay at a hotel in western Queens.”

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

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