By Tara Kyle
MANHATTAN — Budget travelers planning stays at one Harlem hostel were left in the lurch Thursday evening, after inspectors from the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement issued a vacate order to the illegally converted building.
Approximately 100 guests had to leave from the L-Hostel at 1961 Seventh Ave. because the six-story building posed “an extraordinary safety risk,” said Mark Lavorgna, a spokesman for Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Inspectors found 260 people staying in the hostel with access to only one, obstructed, exit.
At Central Park Hostel at 19 W. 103rd St., manager Michael Smith said that over a two-hour period Thursday evening, he fielded eight “very frantic” calls from evicted L-Hostel guests looking for a new place to stay.
“I have no idea where to send them,” Smith said, because Central Park Hostel is fully booked. In an already busy season for hostels, many are experiencing an extra crunch due to volcano-related air delays.
Two of the callers Smith was unable to offer space said that because they could not afford hotel rates, they would have to head directly to the airport.
Smith said he believed that L-Hostel was closed as part of a crackdown on hostels with dormitory-style rooms, which are typically crowded with more beds than a private room.
Lavorgna acknowledged that the city had noticed an “uptick” in similar crowding and conversion violations over the past year and a half, which he attributed to the recession.
“The city is aggressively pursuing action against companies that put profits ahead of public safety,” Lavorgna said.
Central Park Hostel shut down its own 120 dormitory style beds (20 rooms with six beds each) on Monday, Smith said. The hostel is now only offering space in its 36 private rooms.