When I'm in New York, I usually stay at the Wanderers Inn West, a hostel on the hinterland of Harlem. I admit this is usually out of habit rather than anything else, but it's not a bad place to stay for a few days. It costs just £14 a night in a dormitory bed, ok the rooms can be a little on the noisy side, and I remember the air conditioning being decidedly dodgy, you're not going to find many places to rest your head much cheaper than this.
The hostel is at 257 west 113th street, not far off Central Park, and 3 blocks north of the nearest subway station. This is pretty handy, and has frequent services down into central Manhattan. The facilities are pretty good, and it boasts a communal kitchen / dining room, patio, free breakfast, free tea and coffee, and free pizza every Wednesday night!!
The dorms have either 10 or 12 beds in, and you can choose between single sex and mixed rooms. I'd recommend taking a padlock and using it - someone in the room below me had $600 taken from his locker as he had left the key in the room. For an additional charge you can use the internet.
My main gripe with the hostel is the fact there isn't much space for people to chill out - like a lounge area. There is a tv in the dining room, but this isn't a very big space. Hostel staff, when I was there, were either really friendly, or really...not. It did seem better last time I was there.
So if you need a handy hostel, cheap prices, and some cool travellers, then this is the place to head.
I ended up staying in quite a few hostels in New York during two years I stayed there from 1999 - 2001. It all started after the girl I was staying with on the Upper East Side threw me and my mate out of her apartment (another story altogether) and we went to stay at the International Student Center on 38 West 88th Street. This hostel is situated in a brownstone building in a quiet part of the upper west side of the city. The people running the place were nice enough and it was relatively cheap in comparison to the other hostels in the area (It cost us about $20.00 per night in a dorm back then). The facilities were pretty basic as you would expect. They had a spacious lounge in the basement and it had a friendly atmosphere (packaged in the form of a big breasted Israeli girl's wandering hands). The bunk beds were fine if you're used to slumming it and throwning a sheet in the underside of the top bunk came in handy when you're shagging one of the other residents. The catch was that you could only stay a maximum of one week, which was a shame since it took you about that long to get used to the place. As for things to do, the hostel is in a decent enough location. Central park less than a one minute from the front door and there are loads of bars in the area which I spent most of my time getting drunk in (and subsequently getting thrown out of). I went to the Banana Bungalo on Broadway and 75th Street the after this (following en route, the path of my mate who'd been thrown out of the International for some altercation with the caretaker). The Bungalo was a great place, though I'm not sure if it's still there as the owner had some problems with the residents over noise issues. Anyway, this hostel was located above a hotel and was quite near the same amenities as the last joint. The dorms were spacious and it was slightly more expensive (about $23.00 per night in a dorm) than the International, though as with most hoste
ls, they'll cut you a weekly rate if you're staying long term. The hostel had a roof garden and a large common room with a television and kitchen area. The people really make a good hostel atmosphere, as I've discovered in places from Amsterdam to Tel Aviv and this was certainly the case in this place. The staff got on well with the residents and tried to get on (and get it on) with everyone. I stayed here happily for a couple of months until I was unfortunately ejected after an incident involving disorderly behaviour of some description I can't quite recall. Thankfully, some of the friendlier staff members hid my unconscious body when the police arrived, though the manageress saw fit to aquaint my arse with the sidewalk in the morning. Ah well, cie la vie. I was then forced to trudge my way up to Jazz on the Park at 36 West 106th Street with a stinking hangover that very same day. I personally found this hostel to be lifeless and overpriced. It was modern and secure enough with a roof terrace, cafe and sitting area, but it lacked any real character, as I felt did the staff. The hostel is all computerised with security cards etc and was more transient than other hostels I've experienced. I could only stay here a few days, mainly due to a serious cash flow problem but I wasn't that bothered as I'd already set my sights north. I spent the last of my money on gut wrenching malt liquor in an attempt to cure my latest bout of depression while waiting for dearest brother to sent me a few quid before heading up into deepest darkest Harlem. I'd thankfully not read any Conrad novels at this juncture in my young life, but had been exposed to enough media tripe to feel anxious about the welcome a slim white kid with a skin head would receive up in Sugahill. Undeterred I jumped the E train up to 168th Street and proceeded to look for the Blue Rabbit hostel on 730 St. Nicholas Avenue. I had decided it was the only place I co
uld afford to dry out in for a week on my meager budget. Deciding to stop drinking for a couple of weeks I concentrated on work (which just reminds me, I haven't cared to explain that I was working illegally here and happened to overstay my visa by approximately 20 months, ok got that settled). Sugarhill I thought was a dump, but not too disproportionate from some of the places I'd try to avoid back in Glasgow. It was a cheap option though at around £20.00 a night. Finding the entrance to the hostel was a little tricky, though a dislocated buzzer gave away its location in the end. The place was run by some Aussie blokes and an Aussie girl who I ended up shagging (I'm not blowing my own trumpet here, she did it, honest, blow it for me I mean). Anyway, back to the hostel, it was horrible and not only because of the no smoking policy. The residents were maily aimless driftwood like myself and no one seemed interested in socialising with each other, it was a vary strange atmosphere (no doubt also hindered also by my alcohol withdrawel). The rooms were shabby, the blankets few and far between and the kitchen grimey and cockroach infested. The surrounding neighbourhood was really rundown and I couldn't wait to leave the place. Enough said. After about a week or so, maybe two, I decided to try out the Uptown Hostel on 239 Lenox Avenue. This place was like a breath of fresh air compared to the last two places I was holed up in. Though don't misunderstand me, the facilities are awful, dingy and rundown and I'm not in any way saying it is in a great location, because the truth of the matter is that the hostel and area were both slightly less crappy, but again as I've said it's the people who make the atmosphere in the place and the lot I got to know in here were gems. That of course helped, along with the readily available supply of drugs and cheap alcohol in the area. It was nice hanging out warm summer nights
on the fire escape getting drunk being able to see the Manhattan skyline towering over central park. The are loads of places to eat and do laundry and stuff as well, and the Lenox Lounge is only across the street for great live jazz music. Harlem is a great place that I have very personal memories of. Getting back to that remark I made about feeling uncomfotable because it is predominantly an African American neighbourhood. Rubbish, watch enough television and Rupert Murdoch will have you believe that every 'darky' out there is waiting to rob you. Most of the people I met up there were great, although I don't advise getting into any discourse with those black jews preaching the torah on 125th Street. I stayed at this hostel for quite some time before moving into an apartment across the street. There are certain risks of course, as I was nearly shot outside my apartment after an argument with some guy over a previous argument I couldn't remember having with him (I was drunk of course), but hey who wants to book into a nice safe hotel in midtown for christs sake. All things considered, hostels in New York are expensive and generally shabby when you're slumming it, but the experience of disapearing in such a place is wonderful. I guess I've waffled on quite a bit now, but I've only glazed the surface of what is on offer if you're willing to put to the time and effort into trying it for yourself. I used the hostels when I had to for a while, but to really experience New York you have to live there. So get a job, get an apartment, don't worry about your visa. I managed to stay for two years and I only went there with $400.00. If I can do it, anyone can.
Summer of 99 I went to NYC for about a week and throughout the week I was staying at a hostel called Sugarhill. It's a very old hostel in Harlem, Manhattan. I stayed in the dormitary, together with 7 other people from different country. It was a mixed dormitary with more guys than gals. The rent was 25 dollars a night. And I think it's really quite expensive for a hostel like that. But this is NYC, one of the most expensive city in the world. I couldn't afford a hotel room so had to bear with this hostel in one of the most notorious (yes, Harlem is) areas in Manhattan. The beds are all double-level beds. The whole dorm smelled awful. It was summertime and there's no air-conditioning (well, 25 bucks a night, what can I expect??) so the whole dorm was very stuffy and hot. Bed sheets smelled awful, too. At night, although it's summertime, still it could be quite cold sometimes, and the heater was never on. There wasn't enough blankets for everyone in the dorm so one night a guy who came back drunk in the middle of the night grabbed my blanket and left me in shock. Another night I heard this gun shot outside the hostel and was absolutely horrified. Thank God I left for England the next day. In general, it was really quite a horrible place to stay. But if you're on a limited budget trip, you might wanna consider Sugarhill. Well, at least the shower was powerful enough and the water was hot :)