The Roger New York (Midtown)

Like nowhere else in the world, hotel accommodations in New York City are so expensive that we’ve always done our best to avoid them as much as possible.  In a place where every last square foot is a hot commodity, there’s sadly just no such thing as a great deal, and in the few times we’ve come to NYC as a tourist, we’ve always worked hard to line up rooms with friends in advance.  (Yes, folks, this is the city where even a couch will do!)

Now, if you have high hopes of visiting NYC, but no local peeps to lean on for a couchsurf, you’re facing a heady decision.  You’re either going to have to cough up the big money to stay in decent accommodations, or get ready to sleep beside fleas, hookers and their gun-toting pimps!

(Oh, we’re kidding, though not by much.)

When Set of Drifter Brady first visited New York in May of 1999, he and his friends chose the relatively inexpensive, and centrally located, Hotel Pennsylvania (across from Madison Square Garden).  Here’s a hint:  don’t.  A better Midtown alternative is the brand new Roger Hotel, a boutique property located only spitting distance to the Empire State Building.  Formerly the “Roger Williams,” the property has recently undergone a $10 million renovation following a bed bug scare that sent vacancy levels skyrocketing in 2012.

Now back from a recent stay, we can assure you the place has been scrubbed every which way but Sunday.  The WOW-factor begins in the luxurious peacock blue and emerald-accented lobby, where an imposing staircase and soaring pillars bedecked with arty photos supplement a small stand-up bar.  An additional lounge/ restaurant, dubbed the Parlour, hovers above.  (During the morning, Chef Julie Farias’s elegant, but expensive, breakfast includes savory pastries and eggs in at least three different varieties.  We skipped this, though did partake in some rather sumptuous ginger citrus mojitos here in the afternoon.)

Checking in at the understated lobby down the hall, we were impressed by the Roger’s level of service.  Though we had arrived about three hours prior to check-in, Lisa did her best to accommodate our tight schedule, hooking us up with a room in under 10 minutes.  It may have had no view facing out to the alleyway, but having lived in NYC for many years prior, we had seen the Empire State Building enough times before.

Our Deluxe King room was well-appointed, and for a boutique hotel, surprisingly spacious.  We appreciated stylish details like etched mirrors that added depth in a quiet, sophisticated manner (a tie-in to the memorable lobby).  The comfy king-size was just what our weary jet-lagged bodies needed, and the bathroom, thankfully functional – complete with ample bath products by C.O. Bigelow and comfy spa bathrobes.

But in addition to the lush décor and wonderful service, the best part about our stay at the Roger was its location.  Only blocks from a number of convenient subway stops, we were able to get uptown, downtown, across town and over to Brooklyn all in under 25 minutes or less!

Rates for the Roger were completely affordable during our August 2013 stay (around $165 through Jetsetter), though we imagine these promotional rates will not last long.  The time is now to book!

The Roger New York - 131 Madison Avenue, New York, NY  10016, (212) 448-7000

Maritime Hotel (Chelsea)

Your Set of Drifters tend to love anything nautically themed.  Perhaps it’s a response to all of those old movies that showcased the brave spirit of vintage seafarers?  Don’t buy it?  Maybe we just like the stripes?  At any rate, it should come as no surprise that we’re also fans of NYC’s Maritime Hotel, a boutique property that pays homage to the high seas – even though it’s located in the heart of Chelsea.

Originally designed in 1966 as the headquarters for the National Maritime Union (hence the signature over-sized porthole windows), ownership of the Maritime has changed a number of times over the years – at one time playing host to Chinese youths studying abroad, and later subbing as a shelter for battered women.  As time sailed on, the building with the unmistakably groovy façade changed hands multiple times – at once a shelter for battered women, and later, accommodations for Chinese youths studying abroad.

A mid-00s renovation transformed the Maritime yet again, this time into its current incarnation, a destination hotel that boasts one of the largest outdoor areas in town!  We’re particular fans of the Maritime’s bar and restaurant, both of which proffer tasty foodstuffs and drink.  La Bottega features just off the main lobby and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere.  On our last visit in August 2013, we tried the baked eggs with pomodoro sauce, prosciutto and ricotta - absolutely scrumptious.  Our service was fantastic, and a much appreciated surprise for an outlet that is a bit long in the tooth.

In 2011, the Maritime sadly sold off its two basement jewels:  Japanese sushi powerhouse Matsuri and its adjoining Hiro Ballroom, where previous headliners had included Moby, Juan Maclean and Katy Perry!  The Maritime might not be as sceney as it once was, but a couple drinks in the cozy lobby will certainly suffice.  Here, colorful Mid-century furnishings are contrasted with sailing ship miniatures and warmed by a charming vintage fireplace.  Back outside in the Cabanas, things get a bit more lively.  We’ve been to a few parties (and weddings) here, and can assure you the space does not disappoint!

Set of Drifters tip:  We have inside information that the Maritime’s hotel room floors are haunted!  One of our friends who previously worked at the property told us she saw the imprint of a child’s hand show up on the stainless steel elevator door in front of her while she led VIP guests to their room!  If you like this sort of activity - and don’t mind a few disembodied giggles here and there during your stay - we recommend requesting a room that has seen some of this activity!

Maritime Hotel - 363 West 16th Street, New York, NY  10011, (212) 242-1188

Gershwin Hotel (Manhattan)

Another affordable NYC stay can be yours courtesy of the Gershwin Hotel, a colorful property located in Midtown near Madison Square Park.  We first spotted the artsy space in the late 90s when Set of Drifter Brady was invited here for a fashion-related fête.  Ten years later, and after moving away from the city, we returned to stay as guests, lured in by a very reasonable rate on

The Gershwin prides itself on over a century’s worth of service, yet any step inside belies that potential Tin Pan Alley history.  Here, it’s all about hip and modern art with a humorous edge.  Clearly, the interior design team behind the Gershwin had their tongues planted firmly within their cheeks.  And while the funky velvet interiors are starting to look a tad rundown these days, they’ll still feel very cozy and welcoming whenever you come in off the harsh Manhattan sidewalks.

Upstairs, rooms are modest, yet fun... though we’ve certainly had out fill of showers that have no berm from the rest of the bathroom!  (I can’t imagine what a pain in the butt it must be for the housekeeping staff to have to mop up small ponds each and every morning!)  The poor design is a speedy way to athlete's foot, so be sure to bring your flip-flops!

Centrally located, the Gershwin is a nice possibility in Manhattan if you’ve got no friends close enough to crash with.  And if you’re lucky, you just may catch one of their fun gallery/ art film opening parties!  We’re fans.

Gershwin Hotel - 7 East 27th Street, New York, NY  10016, (212) 545-8000 ‎

The Jane Hotel (West Village)

Upon officially moving to Manhattan, Brady hung his hat (and everything else he owned) at the short-term property dubbed the “Hotel Riverview.”  While the building had some interesting history - it was the spot where crew members from the Titanic first slept after surviving the 1912 wreck - accommodations left a lot to be desired.  After all, who wants to be woken up in the middle of the night by sputters of boiling water from a faulty heater - or even worse, Ally Sheedy’s nightly warbling through Hedwig & The Angry Inch?  (Nobody, that’s who.)  Nevertheless, Brady spent the next six months here sharing a communal bathroom with a handful of drug-dealers and a homeless man who might have actually been a woman with a beard!

The Hotel Riverview had some good things going for it.  Aside from being one of the few hotel options in the quaint West Village (see “sights”), the building itself was designed by William A. Boring, architect behind Ellis Island’s striking “Immigrant Station.”  (If you stop by for a visit, you’ll easily see connections between both landmarks, particularly in the use of Georgian arched windows and contrasting cement cornices.)

In the years since your Set of Drifters left New York (as residents), the Hotel Riverview has apparently changed hands – and transformed itself into a stylish boutique property called The Jane.  While back in the day you could be assured the property was one of the skankiest in town, 2008’s multi-million dollar renovation completely wiped the slate (and the walls, the floors, etc.) clean.

That being said, history still lives here.  Paying homage to the era of the Titanic, the Jane impresses with a charming “turn-of-the-century” lobby, from sea green-tiled pillars to the impeccably-costumed Front Desk staff.  Upstairs, expect small “train-style” cabins decked out with all of the amenities any modern traveler might expect.  (We particularly appreciated the peacock feather wallpaper throughout.)

Back on the 1st floor, Cafe Gitane carries the swank retro-vibe a step further – serving zesty French cuisine classics in a bright, airy room festooned with Nelson lamps and a baby taxidermied alligator?  (Set of Drifter Brady always knew that large ballroom was destined for greatness!)

With its location only a hop, skip and a jump from the popular High Line Park and trendy Meatpacking District (see “eats”), the Jane’s cheap rates (starting at $135/ night!) are a veritable steal in New York City.  Still, we have to wonder...  When something seems too good to be true, it usually is.  Rumor has it, bed bugs have already checked in to many of the rooms.  That’s New York for you.  (As always, check your mattress and pillows when traveling.)

The Jane - 113 Jane Street, New York, NY  10014, (212) 924-6700

We also recommend:

Hudson House Inn (Hudson Valley) - 2 Main Street, Cold Spring, NY  10516, (845) 265-9355,

Montauk Manor (Long Island) - 236 Edgemere Street, Montauk, NY  11954, (631) 668-4400,