Inside the Chelsea Lodge, the quarters are close but comfortable.
Inside the Chelsea Lodge, the quarters are close but comfortable.
Courtesy Chelsea Lodge
NEW YORK LODGING

Learning How to Share, One Manhattan Bathroom at a Time

Outside, the Chelsea Lodge is a cheery brownstone. Inside, the quarters are close but comfortable.
Outside, the Chelsea Lodge is a cheery brownstone. Inside, the quarters are close but comfortable. (Chelsea Lodge)

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

What does $276.58 buy? Plenty, right? Not in New York, where that princely sum is merely the average cost -- as of September -- of one night in a hotel. Factor in $67.18 for the average Broadway show ticket (thanks much, League of American Theatres and Producers) and $39.46 a person for dinner in a Big Apple restaurant (ditto, Zagat) food and entertainment and the message is clear: For the traveler of modest means, these are desperate times indeed.

But exactly what desperate measures do they call for? In other words, could it possibly be time you swallowed your pride, locked arms with the penniless student and the dusty backpacker, and took a chance on a room with -- gulp -- a shared bath? We investigated four Manhattan establishments with loos down the hall, and, believe it or not, some ... weren't so bad. Heck, we'd even let our mother stay in a couple.

Chelsea Lodge

318 W. 20th St. between Eighth and Ninth avenues, 800-373-1116, http://www.chelsealodge.com.

WHAT WE PAID: $138.42, including tax. Rooms are $119 single, $129 double.

THE PROPERTY: We walked past the Chelsea Lodge, a cheery brownstone wedged in the middle of West 20th, twice before we realized it was our destination. That's a good thing. There was no blinking vacancy sign in the window, no doorman waiting impatiently for the next guests, just a couple of 20-somethings sitting on the front stoop. Inside, we weren't bowled over by the musty Grandma's-house-quality decor (tired but tidy, and those ducks have to go), and there's little public area to speak of, save for a few chairs at the foot of a staircase. Then again, we weren't expecting the Inn at Little Washington -- or the Days Inn, for that matter.

But what's not to love about the neighborhood? Chelsea is a happy glut of restaurants, shops, galleries and entertainment, and Greenwich Village is only a few minutes away. Around the corner, we could have checked out performances at the Joyce Theater ( http://www.joyce.org), a premier venue for dance, while restaurants on Eighth run the gamut, including Italian, Chinese takeout and good ol' American Everything at numerous diners.

OUR ROOM: Though we were offered a free upgrade to a first-floor double facing the street, we opted for more privacy and stuck with our dinky single. We're glad we did. The next morning, sidewalk construction seemed to rattle every pane of glass in the place.

The first things we spotted in our second-floor room, which looked down on a pretty, tree-packed courtyard, were the Hershey kisses on the pillow. Nice. A twin bed against one wall was neatly made with soft sheets, and a flat-screen TV sat on an old chest of drawers. (Why does everyone have a flat-screen TV except us, anyway?) A fan on the tall ceiling moved the air nicely, and a sink had just enough space to fit all of our toiletries.

The toilet itself was down the hall, but no complaints here about the surprisingly spacious in-room shower. (We wouldn't have been surprised if 13 clowns tumbled out of it.) Okay, we had to shimmy a little to avoid dripping all over the bed when we stepped out, but we're fine with anything that avoids that awkward trek to a shared shower.

THE BATHROOM: Our floor had a pair of well-stocked WCs, both of which were predictably tiny, with nondescript tile, sparkling fixtures and a fan/light on a timer. Neither one was ever occupied when I needed it, though I could hear people bumbling about late at night when they were skipping to the loos, about 20 feet from my room.

WOULD WE GO BACK? Absolutely. Our single room had the twin virtues of being both comfortable and dirt cheap, and that location was ideal.

WOULD WE LET OUR MOTHER STAY HERE? If Mom could get a quiet room on the first floor, perhaps. But because there's no elevator, and voices carry in the halls, and those steps are steep, and Mom is a little creaky these days, we'd steer her elsewhere.


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