Dominique Strauss-Kahn spent $3,000 on his New York City hotel room. Is that a lot?

Answers to your questions about the news.
May 16 2011 5:38 PM

The $3,000 Suite

Just what kind of hotel room was Dominique Strauss-Kahn staying in?

Sofitel New York. Click image to expand.
Sofitel New York

International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was taken into police custody on Saturday after a maid at New York's Sofitel hotel accused him of sexual assaulting her in his $3,000-per-night suite. What kind of hotel room can you get for $3,000 in New York City?

A very comfortable suite. Three grand will buy a one- or two-bedroom suite on a higher floor, usually with delightful views, at the city's best hotels. The Mandarin Oriental on Columbus Circle offers one-bedroom suites with floor-to-ceiling views of Central Park for $2,500. Guests looking for a little less hustle and bustle can rent a 1,000-square-foot, two-bedroom suite at the Lowell on the Upper East Side for $2,855. Rents around this price point often buy a private terrace, original artwork, handmade furnishings, marble floors and counters, full-size toiletry bottles instead of travel-size containers, and flat-screen televisions in every room—sometimes including the bathrooms. Over at the famed Plaza Hotel on the southeast corner of Central Park, suites of this type include another little perk: a shared butler, who draws the bath, shines shoes, and keeps the bar stocked with a client's favorites.

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The average traveler pays around $100 for a room in North America, so $3,000 seems like the upper limit of profligacy. But in the Big Apple, it's not even close. The Mandarin Oriental's most luxurious accommodation in New York, the presidential suite, runs $16,000 per night. Spanning 2,640 square feet on the 53rd floor, it enables guests to see both Central Park and the Hudson River. An iPad controls the lights, thermostat, and sound system. Rather than boring its high-net-worth guests with contemporary artwork, they stock the place with centuries-old Chinese sculptures and parchments. There's also a full-sized, private kitchen with its own staff. (The chefs have their own entrance, of course.)

Five-figure rents also buy a certain amount of flexibility for traveling dignitaries. The top room at the Peninsula Hotel, a two-bedroom with a grand piano and private library, comes with an optional third bedroom for security staff.

Swanky designer names also attach to the most expensive suites. The $35,000-per-night Ty Warner penthouse at the Four Seasons was designed by famed architects Peter Marino and I.M. Pei. The 4,300-square-foot suite has nine rooms and a panoramic view of Manhattan. Penthouse guests enjoy a private butler and a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce Phantom or Maybach.

Wealthy travelers can easily splash out a few Gs in a handful of other American cities, like Los Angeles, Miami, and Las Vegas. As with permanent housing, you get more square footage for your dollar outside of Manhattan. The Palms Hotel and Spa in Las Vegas features a 9,000-square-foot Hugh Hefner sky villa for $40,000. It has its own private gym, a poker table, and, of course, a rotating bed with mirrored ceiling.

Bonus Explainer: Prosecutors have charged Mr. Strauss-Kahn with attempted rape, sexual abuse, forcible touching, unlawful imprisonment, and committing a criminal sexual act. What's a "criminal sexual act"? In New York, it's any nonconsensual act of oral or anal sex. State law defines rape according to its more old-fashioned definition as nonconsensual "sexual intercourse," which typically refers to vaginal penetration. Both first-degree rape and first-degree criminal sexual act carry a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison. (For more on the legal definitions of these crimes, see this Explainer on the difference between rape and sexual assault.)

Got a question about today's news? Ask the Explainer.

Brian Palmer writes about science, medicine, and the environment for Slate and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Email him at explainerbrian@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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