Why New York doesn’t have hostels

New York City.
New York City.
Image: Reuters/Lucas Jackson
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A subway system that runs 24 hours a day. Pierogis at 3am. The ruins of a smallpox hospital. For the adventurous traveler on a shoestring budget, New York City seemingly has it all. Except for hostels, that is.

Aside from a handful of rooms run by nonprofits like the YMCA and Hostelling International, where beds go for less than $70 a night, New York lacks the low-cost bunk-bed accommodations that are a staple across Europe.

The dearth of hostels is rooted in a 2010 law aimed at cracking down on illegal hostels set up in multiple-family dwellings. While the city has seen a boom in hotel construction, and remains Airbnb’s largest US market, the lack of hostels leaves budget travelers with a limited number of affordable options.

That could all start to change this week, as a group of European hosteling execs descend on New York City to meet with city officials and lobby for a new law. New York City councilwoman Margaret Chin has already proposed a bill that would exempt hostels from the 2010 ban.

Paul Halpenny, head of room supply at hostel-booking website Hostelworld, says New York could benefit from even more tourism if it had a robust hosteling industry.

Hostel chain Generator operates throughout Europe and is opening its first US hostel in Miami next year. Says CEO Fredrik Korallus: ”I’d put 1,000 beds in New York tomorrow.”