The most interesting new trend in New York hotels is the mainstreaming of low-budget establishments. No longer is the penurious traveler relegated to roach hotels in dodgy neighborhoods; "cheap" lodgings -- costing no more than $125 per night, slightly more than half of the city's $200 per-day average (before the 13.25 percent occupancy tax and $2 occupancy fee are tacked on) -- can be clean, comfortable, secure and, occasionally, stylish. All of our favorites offer rooms with private baths and (in almost all cases) color televisions and telephones. They're located in great neighborhoods.
But be warned: Our picks offer terrific value in one of the nation's most expensive cities, but they are still tourist-class establishments. A few toss in an upmarket amenity -- a VCR perhaps, or an in-room CD player. But for the most part, you should count on bringing your own hair dryer, alarm clock, bathrobe and shampoo. Pack lightly, as you may have to schlep your bags up stairs. If you drive, staying at these places means no on-site parking; see notes below for neighborhood parking rates. For air conditioning, expect window units. Your room will be small. The view likely will be uninspiring. You can usually forget about attentive, personal service. Harried desk clerks are juggling too many other tasks to check you in or out smoothly.
And perhaps most important: Plan ahead. These places book up fast.
All that said, you get a bed for a night in New York for a fee that won't tap out your credit card. And this is one case where you do get more than you pay for.
Amsterdam Court Hotel
This elegant 110-room hotel is slightly at odds with its setting next to the Peepland/Bare Elegance Topless Bar & Lounge. Rooms are spare, stark and minimalist, all beige and black with tubular furniture (open shelves serve as a bureau). Bathrooms are sleek, white and functional. Perks: in-room CD players and hair dryers. Continental breakfast included, but it's much more fun to walk a block over to 51st Street to Ellen's Stardust Diner and tuck into a real repast.
226 W. 50th St. between Broadway and Eighth Avenue, 212-459-1000. Rates normally are $135 to $145, but Quikbook (1-800-789-9887) often has doubles for $125. Overnight parking: $12 to $17 in numerous lots between Broadway and Eighth Avenue.
(Upper West Side)
With such gourmet markets as Zabar's and Fairway as neighbors, the best thing about this 200-room, 35-floor hotel is that all rooms come with fully equipped kitchenettes. Otherwise, it's your basic corporate hotel -- pleasant, characterless -- only with tinier rooms. The onetime apartment hotel (there are still some permanent dwellers) offers amenities like voice mail, clock radios, coffeemakers and hair dryers. And elevators. Great neighborhood.
2130 Broadway (at 75th Street), 212-787-1100, http://email@example.com. Weekend rates are $125 (weekdays run $30 to $40 more). Overnight parking: $20 at 76th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam.
The second-floor lobby is magnificent -- exposed brick walls, fireplace (decorative for now), cozy couches, bistro tables. The rest of the place, though pleasant, doesn't rise to these lofty heights. The rooms are minuscule but tastefully decorated, and you get warm and attentive service. The 41-room inn, in a three-story Victorian brownstone (no elevators), is across from the trendy Paramount Hotel and the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, currently showing "Titanic." Amenities include clock radios, hair dryers and a continental breakfast, and JR's Irish Pub next door gives guests a 20 percent discount.
264 W. 46th St. between Broadway and Eighth Avenue, 212-997-9200, http://www.broadwayinn.com. Rates are $85 to $135. Overnight parking: $30 at numerous 46th Street lots.
The Carlton Arms
In this wacky 54-room hotel, every guest room is an original work of art. The clientele is as young, hip and adventurous as the interiors. Among the favorites is the submarine room, with its "view" of the Lost City of Atlantis, and the stuffed-animal room, with plush mammals even clinging to the ceiling. No TVs; there's a public telephone in the second-floor lobby. No breakfast is included (though Cafe Loon Loon is next door). Stay more than one night and you make your own bed.
160 E. 25th St. between Third and Lexington avenues, 212- 679-0680, http://www.hotwired .com/gallery/96/04/carlton.html. Prices range from $62 to $76; some shared baths. Overnight parking: $18 on Third Street between 24th and 25th streets.
The entrance -- a narrow glass door next to a deli -- is so tacky you'll mistake the Cosmopolitan for a welfare hotel. But once you're inside, the sleek blond wood lobby is reassuring. Rooms are cozy, with white Formica furnishings, armoire, ceiling fan and a desk with modem-ready phone. The bathroom, with three-foot tub, is tiny. Fabulous location -- six steps from IRT express and close to SoHo and Chinatown -- as well as all the hot TriBeCa restaurants.
95 W. Broadway at Chambers, 212-566-1900, http://www.cosmohotel.com. Rates are $89 for a single, $119 for a double. Overnight parking: $18 weekends on Reade, off of Hudson.
The Gershwin, with its lobby art by such pop icons as Lichtenstein and Warhol, is so arty, funky and hip that people stay here as much for the atmosphere as the bargains. Rooms in the 106-room, 13-story hotel are stylish enough -- walls painted in pastel green or yellow with hand-painted murals adding color. The minimalist furnishings are either Philippe Starck-influenced or the real thing. But the real scene is in the lobby, which doubles as an art gallery, and leads to such hotel hideaways as the Red Room, an intimate bar, and the Back Room, a comedy and music venue. A cafe serves light fare.
7 E. 27th St. between Madison and Fifth avenues, 212-545-8000, http://www.gershwinhotel.com. Room rates range from $100 to $140. Overnight parking: 30th between Fifth and Madison.
(Upper West Side)
The Malibu is in the scruffy part of the Upper West Side, but its proximity to Columbia University is a plus, and midtown, via the IRT, is only eight minutes away. Ignore first impressions of the cavelike second-floor lobby because the rooms are actually quite cheery, if sparsely decorated, with sleek black tubular furniture, high ceilings, white walls and tropical-themed bedspreads. Perks include a CD player, clock radio and iron in each room. No elevators.
2688 Broadway at 103rd Street, 212-663-0275 or 1-800-647-2227, http://www.malibuhotelnyc.com. Rates range from $79 to $129. Overnight parking: $19 on 102nd Street, between Broadway and Amsterdam.
The Park Savoy
The nine-story, 75-room Park Savoy is unabashedly budget-minded. Its own staffers will tell you it's nothing special, except for the lofty address -- a block from Central Park South, and an easy walk to Carnegie Hall and Bergdorf Goodman. You enter through a narrow, wood-paneled hallway, where a tiny reservations desk is tucked under a stairwell. Furnishings are in varnished wood. Rooms are often in some state of disrepair; the cable to the television is unhooked, the handle to the blinds is missing, you find a hair on your sheets. Hey, you're in Midtown dirt-cheap. Waddaya expect?
158 W. 58th St. between Sixth and Seventh avenues, 212-245- 5755. Rates are $82.12 to $126.27. Overnight parking: $30, next door.
Best Western Seaport Inn
Our only chain pick, this characterless 72-room hotel is a great value. Located in a renovated 19th-century commercial loft, rooms are outfitted with mahogany reproductions, TV/VCRs and fridges. Bathrooms are spacious, complete with fancy soaps and hair dryers. Check out the lobby's bizarre video fireplace, flanked by built-in bookshelves with the very latest from Reader's Digest. Attractions: South Street Seaport, the Fulton Fish Market and Wall Street. Better yet, don your sneakers and hike across the Brooklyn Bridge.
33 Peck Slip (one block south of the Brooklyn Bridge), 212-766-6600, http://www.bestwestern.com. Weekend rates are $114 to $149. Overnight parking: $20 at any one of three nearby lots.
Washington Square Hotel(Greenwich Village)
The Washington Square gets the basics right with precious little flair. The 170-room hotel is steps away from Washington Square Park, one of the best in the city for people watching. Rooms are merely functional, but the rate includes a continental breakfast and use of a small health club. Its restaurant, C3, is adjacent. The plexiglass surrounding the front desk is jarring, but the action in the neighborhood compensates.
103 Waverly Pl., between Fifth and Sixth avenues at Washington Square, 1-800-222-0418, http: //www.wshotel.com. Rates are $110 to $160. Overnight parking: $20 on Waverly Place between MacDougal and Fifth Avenue.
If you like pricier -- but still reasonable -- digs, you can find bargains by using discount reservations services. Quikbook (1-800-789- 9887, http:// www.quikbook.com) and Hotel Reservations Network (1-800-964-6835, http://www .180096hotel.com) both offer a decent selection of New York hotels with rates under $150.
Staff writers John Deiner, Gary Lee and K.C. Summers contributed to this report.
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company
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