as a weekly practice I listen to npr and do a little sketch on one of the stories. take a look, you can click on the illustration to make it bigger!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Micro-Hotels Offer NYC Visitors Cheap, Chic Digs

It's not uncommon for visitors to New York City to spend $300 a night for a hotel room in the heart of the action, Manhattan. The cheapest hotel room not at the center of things would typically cost you about $129 a night. But now there is The Pod. The micro-hotel looks like a luxurious boutique hotel. It has a cafe with designer decor, a terrace and a concierge, and it is right in the center of midtown.

David Bernstein, the Pod's managing director, says the building used to be a single-room occupancy hotel. The Pod's owners could have chosen to knock down walls and make bigger rooms, he says. "Instead, we decided to leave the room sizes as they were and create a niche for younger travelers; less expensive rooms, a little hip, a little fun." Even with the downturn, he says, occupancy ranges between 85 and 90 percent. The rooms are tiny, with bunk beds, an iPod docking station, a light and a small TV above each bed. If you want to read or watch TV when your friend is sleeping, you can do that. The bathroom is down the hall. The room goes for $89 a night in most seasons — less than $45 a piece if you bunk with a friend. You can join a chat room before you arrive, meet other guests online and, perhaps, plan to go to a Yankees game together.

"The room is comfortable," says Ingrid Roseborough, a Pod guest who was visiting from Iowa. "And like everything so far, I feel like all my needs are taken care of." Those needs include getting advice on where she can get her eyebrows done: In response to Roseborough's inquiry, Pod concierge Kara Klueber whips out not one, but three different business cards. If $89 a night is still too high for your hotel budget, you can have a remarkably different experience at The Jane in Greenwich Village. The 5-by-7 rooms, former digs for sailors, offer the same level of technology as the accommodations at the Pod — including flat-screen TVs and iPod docking stations.

But the atmosphere at The Jane, housed in a building more than a century old, is straight out of Jules Verne: old-fashioned bellhops, huge keys, a backward clock, moose heads on the wall — and long-term tenants, 60 of them, who pay less than $700 a month. "I call it the hotel at the end of the world," says Samuel Gaedke, who has lived at The Jane for four years. "If you want to disappear off the face of the Earth for a little while, it is a good place to come to." The Jane's single hotel rooms are $75 a night.

Sean McPherson, one of the owners of the hotel, has said he drew inspiration for the decor from the films Darjeeling Limited and The Royal Tenenbaums. He calls the rooms micro-chic. "They're very small," he says. "They're the size of a train cabin." McPherson says the hotel harkens back to the New York of the 1980s: grittier, more exotic, more adventurous — "a place for travelers with more dash than cash," he says. There is some obvious tension between the longtime tenants, who fear they may be pushed out of the hotel, and the hotel management, which insists that these tenants will remain part of the mix of guests. McPherson says that once upon a time, sailors rented rooms at The Jane for 25 cents a night. Adjusted for inflation, he says, they are returning to the same basic concept.

- excerpt from NPR

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