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Destination: New York : Room Relief in Manhattan : Despite High Taxes, the Big Apple Has a Range of Lodging Prices

HARTFORD COURANT

When your arms are heavy with shopping bags and your feet beg for relief, there’s nothing like kicking back on a soft bed or comfortable couch. But in Manhattan, the price of doing so can be more pain than pleasure.

With one of the highest hotel taxes in the country, the city has long suffered a bad reputation for being too out of reach for those who want to lay down their sleepy heads in Big Appledom.

But can you stay overnight in the city without breaking the bank? Actually, yes. “That’s a myth of New York--that there are no inexpensive hotels available,” said Jeanine Moss, director of communications for the New York Convention & Visitors Bureau.

If you’re willing to forgo 24-hour room service, health clubs and an extravagance of space, there are a number of affordable hotels from which to choose. And if you want to wallow in luxury, New York City hoteliers are happy to serve you.

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(But don’t forget those hefty taxes. For rooms costing $99 and less, the tax is 14.25% plus a $2 hotel occupancy tax each night. Taxes jump to 19.25% for rooms costing $100 and more, plus $2 hotel occupancy tax each night.)

Here are some options: * The Franklin, 164 East 87th Street near Lexington Avenue (telephone 212-369-1000), made a splash this summer when it opened its chic doors and found elite models and artsy types clamoring to stay in its 53 tiny rooms. But the lack of space is made up in a generous dose of style. The charming rooms can be described as Jetsons meets Bauhaus: stainless-steel sinks, cherrywood desks topped with polished black granite, cedar closets, back-lit canopied beds draped with sheer voile. Each room has a TV/VCR (borrow a tape from the free video library in the lobby). At $115 for a single room with one double bed, The Franklin is sure to do heavy repeat business. Rates: $115 single, $125 double.

* Hotel Beacon, 2130 Broadway at 75th Street (tel. 800-572-4969), is the hip place to stay in the Upper West Side. This recently renovated property (130 rooms) is also a hotel within an apartment building with full-time residents. Each room features a kitchenette with in-room coffee maker, full refrigerator, stove and sink. Suites, with a separate bedroom, can fit four. Rates: $99 double, $140 suite.

* Ameritania Hotel, 1701 Broadway at 54th Street (tel. 212-247- 5000), is a recently renovated hotel (235 rooms) in an apartment building that has some full-time residents. But it has a measure of coolness and the added cachet of being neighbors of David Letterman. Rates: $149 for a double.

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* Hotel Macklowe, 145 West 44th St. between Broadway and 6th Avenue (tel. 212-768-4400). This midtown high-rise in the theater district has all the luxuries of the major chain hotels but none of the tackiness. The lobby soars in Art Deco with extensive use of black marble and African mahogany. The hotel’s 629 rooms on 52 stories exude a cool elegance, Ask to be situated as high as possible facing south, or, better yet, in the corner rooms facing west and north, and you’re in for a skyline treat. Rates start at $195 for a single and $210 for a double.

* Paramount Hotel, 235 West 46th St. between Broadway and 8th Avenue (tel. 800-225-7474), is a charmer, popular with European visitors and artsy types. And why not? The Philippe Starck-designed lobby and guest rooms wear style on their sleeves. Pose in the lobby, mezzanine lounge or adjoining Whiskey bar. The 610 rooms are minuscule, but with a whimsical flair. Rates: $155-$205 for a double. A weekend package goes for $165 a night and includes breakfast and choice of free parking or video rental.

* Manhattan East Suite Hotels (tel. 800-637-8483), operates nine hotel properties throughout the city, offering mini-suites (all with kitchenettes and living room areas) that are clean and spacious. My favorite hotels in the collection are the Plaza Fifty, 155 East 50th St.; Shelburne Murray Hill, 303 Lexington Ave.; Dumont Plaza, 150 East 34th St., and Eastgate Tower, 222 East 39th St. For families, Manhattan East is a gem. Double-occupancy rates at most of the hotels range from $165 for a studio to $435 for a two-bedroom suite. The two most luxurious properties, Beekman Tower Hotel at 3 Mitchell Place and Surrey Hotel at 20 East 76th St., range $290-$370.

And if you are ready to wallow:

* By far the most eagerly awaited new building in Manhattan has been I.M. Pei’s stunning Four Seasons Hotel New York on 57th Street between Madison and Park--shopper’s heaven. Rising 52 stories in dramatic step-backs, this power spire claims to be the tallest hotel in New York. It is certainly one of the grandest.

My room on the 37th floor only slightly disappointed. For $295--the least expensive room--I somehow expected more pampering. But I was charmed by the bronzed tone of the bedspread (hiding Frette sheets), the muted Scalamandre wall coverings and scrumptious English sycamore. In the bathroom, wall-to-wall Florentine marble, I found generous bathrobes, luxury soaps and shampoos and linen hand towels. Stunning views south and west allowed me to gaze at the Empire State Building and Central Park.

Four Seasons Hotel New York (309 rooms, 58 suites), 57 East 57th St.; tel. (212) 758-5700. Rates: $380-$480, single, for rooms ranging from “superior” to “deluxe park view”; $420-$520, double.


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