On July 23, New York State passed a law barring most short-term apartment rentals. The law doesn't take effect until May 1, 2011, which gives travelers plenty of time to plan and make sure that the alternative accommodation they're seeking is legal. (For more information on legal hotels in New York, see "What New York State's Illegal Hotels Law Means for Travelers")
Our book Pauline Frommer's New York has an excellent guide to alternative lodgings in New York City (you can read a shorter summary of her recommdations in the article "Rent an Apartment and Save on New York City Lodging"). But to get you started, we picked out some great current options for people looking for something other than the traditional hotel experience.
One rule to go by: if the apartment is "hosted" -- in other words, if the owner actually lives there -- it's legal. But there are many other short-term lodgings that remain legal, whether they're technically classed as hotels or through some other loophole.
New York City Apartment Rentals Under $200 a Night
Affordable New York City (www.affordablenewyorkcity.com)
Think of this service as "alternative lodgings for dummies." Rather than giving you a list of apartments, Affordable New York City's Susan Freschel quizzes you on what you want from your city break. For instance, if you're coming for the New York City Marathon, she'll try to put you near the finish line. She offers hosted apartments in Manhattan from the Battery up to Harlem, including rooms in a Greenwich Village brownstone and a SoHo artist's loft. Prices range from $100 to $175 a night, she says.
Airbnb long ago branched out from renting people's futons into renting private rooms and suites. This is alternative accommodation at its finest -- quirky, friendly, and off the beaten path. My friend Seth has been renting out his spare room for quite some time now; he lives in the super-hip Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg, and the $80/night bedroom comes with 20-foot ceilings, a private balcony, and a view of Manhattan. Up in East Harlem, graphic designer Meadow is renting out a cozy private room for $75 with more than 40 positive reviews. There are dozens of other great examples on airbnb's site.
The Gracie Inn (www.gracieinnhotel.com)
Approved by the New York City tourism board, the Gracie Inn Hotel is an unpretentious quasi-B&B with kitchenettes in every room. Rates start at $169.99. It's one of several B&Bs with apartment-style amenities featured on BedandBreakfast.com (www.bedandbreakfast.com), a good go-to site for alternative lodgings.
New York Habitat (www.nyhabitat.com)
This big-name real estate agency has a $149/night bedroom in the heart of Chelsea available, as well as some other hosted accommodation around Manhattan. While they staunchly opposed the new law, they're a law-abiding bunch, and they got their own lawyer to verify which properties would still be OK after May 1st.
New York City Apartment Rentals Over $200 a Night
Affinia Hotels (www.affinia.com)
The top chain of apartment-style hotels in New York City, Affinia have hundreds of suites in prime midtown locations with full kitchens. We've reviewed the Affinia Manhattan near Penn Station, the Affinia Gardens on the Upper East Side and the Affinia Dumont in Murray Hill, but all of the company's properties have a strong reputation for cleanliness and good service.
The Central Park outpost -- AKA operates four in Manhattan -- looks like a luxury apartment building a block from Central Park in one of New York's ritziest areas -- but don't worry, the New York City government says it's a hotel. Prices are high, but we found this to be a homey-yet-modern apartment experience in the heart of the city.
The Hotel Beacon (www.beaconhotel.com)
I love this one. The Hotel Beacon is in a historic building on the family-friendly Upper West Side, and you really get a feeling of living like a New Yorker here. You're blocks from New York icons like Zabars and H&H Bagels, and a quick walk from Central Park. Units range from single rooms up to two-bedroom suites with a fold-out couch in the living room, and every one has a kitchenette.
Do you know of other great options for apartment stays in New York City? Tell us in the comments below, or talk with other travelers in our New York forum.