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New York on a budget

New York's Times Square is coming alive with new hotels, but few as inexpensive as Ian Schrager's refurbished Paramount on West 46th Street. This is the theater district, and who can argue with the prices: 40 percent of the Paramount's 610 rooms cost $100 or less. (Doubles up to $170.) Schrager spent a bundle spiffing up this old (circa 1927) hotel. Writer William Norwich called the Paramount a "high-tech inn for the hip un-rich." No argument. It's chic. Guest rooms are described as whimsical, but you'd best like white and checker-board-patterned carpets. Even the beds are white. French designer Philippe Starck used blowups of Vermeer's 17th-century Lacemaker for headboards. Starck did French President Mitterrand's bedroom at the Elysee Palace, so who's to argue?

Baths feature conical-shaped wash basins with live red roses. Other flowers are strewn throughout the hotel. Schrager weeps. Says his floral bill figures to run $250,000 a year. Still, business is rosy. Open only a few weeks, the Paramount is boasting 90 percent occupancy.

Staffers in the lobby dress tuxedo-casual, with T-shirts substituting for formal shirts. Schrager describes the lobby as resembling "a big living room _ a stage" where guests seated on the mezzanine study other guests in the lobby.

In breaking with tradition, Schrager installed a playroom for youngsters. This along with a $1 movie theater with popcorn and penny candy. Coming up next: a supper club in Billy Rose's old Diamond Horseshoe nightclub. Says Schrager: "We give our guests dreams, we give them magic." His hero? Walt Disney.

The Paramount, 235 West 46th St., New York, N.Y. 10036. Call (800) 225-7474. Lincoln Center: Good news for opera-music-theater buffs. Renovation of the Empire Hotel at Lincoln Center is nearing completion. Four hundred rooms ($145-$205, single-double). The Empire is frequented by artists performing at Lincoln Center. CDs and VCRs in all rooms. Theater packages offered seasonally featuring the Metropolitan Opera, the Philharmonic, the New York City Ballet, etc. Free privileges for guests at a nearby health club. Twenty-four-hour room service. The Empire Hotel, 44 West

63rd St., New York, N.Y. 10023 (800) 545-7400.

The bargain trail: Rock-bottom rates are offered to New York visitors by the Herald Square Business & Hotel Association. Good buys for budget travelers. For rates and information, write to the HSB Association, 28 East 31st St., Suite 1402, New York, N.Y. 10016. To assist out-of-towners, the hotels provide their guests with a tips booklet on New York written by native Manhattanite Bern Marcowitz.

Member hotels:

Herald Square Hotel, 19 West 31st St., New York, N.Y. 10001. Rates: $65-$75 double.

Hotel Wolcott, 4 West 31st St., New York, N.Y. 10001. Rates: $50 double.

Hotel Aberdeen, 17 West 32nd St., New York, N.Y. 10001. Rates: $85 double.

Hotel Stanford, 43 West 32nd St., New York, N.Y. 10001. Rates: $90 double.

Hotel Roger Williams, 28 East 31st St., New York, N.Y. 10016. Rates: $60-$65 double.

For information about other inexpensive New York hotels (midtown between 42nd and 59th streets), contact the Central Reservation Service Corp. at (800) 683-3311. Rates $65-$90.

The B&B Scene: Inexpensive accommodations in Manhattan are offered by a number of B&B reservations services. Prices from about $45-$50. For listings in Manhattan, contact:

Abode Bed & Breakfast, P.O. Box 20022, New York, N.Y., 10028 (80) 835-8880.

Urban Adventure, P.O. Box 426, New York, N.Y., 10024.

City Lights Bed & Breakfast, P.O. Box 20355, Cherokee Station, N.Y. 10028.

Hosts & Guests & Performing Arts Bed & Breakfast, 223 West 70th St., Apt. No. 1, New York, N.Y. 10023.

A host in Brooklyn: If you're taking in Brooklyn, try Liana Paolella's Bed & Breakfast on the Park, a four-story, 1892 brownstone with rooms facing Prospect Park. Stained-glass windows, antiques, classical-contemporary paintings. Furnishings collected by the owner, who spent her youth in France and Switzerland. This is one of Brooklyn's landmark buildings. Bed & Breakfast on the Park, 113 Prospect Park West, Park Slope, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215. Rates: $90-$135, including Paolella's breakfasts (crepes, quiche Lorraine, German pancakes, ham, bacon, etc.).

Free literature: A handy New York guide map is available from the New York Convention & Visitors Bureau. Lists hotel prices, restaurants (a big help for first-time visitors). The bureau provides free folders on Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, the Bronx. Other brochures tell of "20 free things to do in Manhattan."

A calendar of events lists Broadway and off-Broadway theaters, museums, music and dance programs, festivals, parades, children's activities, sightseeing tours. Additional material: guided tours, boat trips, subway-bus maps. Hundreds of pamphlets. Be sure to specify the particular information you are requesting. In addition, the bureau distributes free cards good for discounts at theater box offices (both Broadway and off-Broadway). Available on a day-to-day, first-come basis. New York Convention & Visitors Bureau, Two Columbus Circle, New York, N.Y. 10019.