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Albany bill would curb illegal hostels

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Guests at Brooklyn’s illegal hotels could soon be checking out for good — if Albany has its way.

The state Senate passed a bill last Friday that would close a much-abused loophole that prevented the city from acting against unlicensed hotels if more than half of the tenants in a given building were on short, day-to-day, hotel-style rentals.

It is expected to pass the Assembly as early as this week.

Mayor Bloomberg called the bill necessary to “clear up ambiguities” that have hindered the city’s ability to enforce illegal hotel conversions.

“Illegal hotels [create] fire safety and security hazards and quality-of-life concerns in residential neighborhoods,” said Bloomberg. “The bill provides a clear definition of what constitutes transient and permanent occupancy, which would allow city agencies to issue summonses and initiate other enforcement actions against illegal hotels.”

Williamsburg has been the epicenter for the spread of hotels and hostels in recent years, which has coincided with the neighborhood’s real-estate swoon.

Even before the bill passes in Albany, the Mayor’s Office for Special Enforcement is poised to launch further investigations throughout the neighborhood, sources said. The goal is to locate illegally converted buildings — and the focus is on a condominium on Driggs Avenue that is partially occupied by Hotel Toshi, a boutique transient hotel catering to international travelers.

In many Williamsburg hotels, landlords have sought out hospitality companies, such as Hotel Toshi, to keep vacant units occupied as they try to stay afloat in a difficult real-estate market.

These hotels have sought to exploit existing law, legislators say, by renting fewer than 50 percent of the units in a building to long-term tenants, while setting aside the remainder as hotel units, which was permitted under prior codes.

The new legislation requires that all units in a residential building be occupied by the permanent tenants unless the building’s certificate of occupancy or its zoning reflects hotel usage. If not, the city can crack down.

Assemblyman Vito Lopez (D–Williamsburg), who helped craft the bill, called the Senate vote “a great victory” and promised to support the legislation to curb the “rapid proliferation” of illegal hotels in his district.

“These illegal hotels are taking away housing from long-time residents of our community, and often pose safety risks to their guests,” said Lopez. “It is our responsibility as legislators to ensure the availability of affordable housing and the safety of all residents and visitors.”

But Hotel Toshi President Robert Chan said that the unintended consequences of the bill’s passage are “pretty severe.”

“If we take away affordable housing for tourists visiting the city, we will take away avenues for tourist dollars spending money,” said Chan. “Once you don’t have an affordable option for middle class tourists to come, it will close of tourism for only the super-rich.”

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Reader Feedback

The true fact from what’s best for New York City says:
If not for these tourist and vacationers or business guests, a lot of stores and mom and pop shops would have long been out of business! these tourist are keeping our businesses afloat, this tourist are pouring into our local NYC economy millions in which over half of these tourist and business guest say, that, if not for these short term apartments they would have not come to NYC for vacation or business, an average regular hotel in NYC is $300 - $400 a night for one small room!. Furthermore, all these complaints by these organizations and “anonymous tenants” running to the press every second day is nonsense! a person who is coming to NYC for vacation or business for a short time is not looking to do any harm to anyone, these people are in most part professionals who came here for vacation or business, the statistics are that 99.99% of all assaults or muggings are done by local tenants, vacationers are not looking to harm anyone, they came here for vacation, all these complaints are nonsense!
Big corporate hotels and organizations with hidden agendas, like the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council and the Hotel Association, are obviously behind this bill, AND THESE SO CALLED ILLEGAL HOTELS COMMITTEE AND AFFORDABLE HOUSING ACTIVIST ARE GETTING KICKBACKS FROM THIS BIG CORPORATE HOTELS!.

IF THIS BILL BECOMES LAW NYC WILL SEE A DRASTIC DECREASE IN TOURISM AND WILL HAVE A MAJOR FINANCIAL IMPACT ON NYC ECONOMY, OF THE 45.25 MILLION VISITORS WHO VISITED NYC LAST YEAR OVER 50% WERE TOURIST OR BUSINESS GUEST STAYING IN THESE AFFORDABLE SHORT TERM RENTALS AND WOULD HAVE NOT COME IF THEY HAVE TO STAY IN THESE HOTELS WHERE THEY CHARGE $300 - $400 A NIGHT FOR ONE SMALL ROOM! THIS BILL WILL DRASTICALLY REDUCE THE TOURISM INDUSTRY IN NYC AND DRIVE OUT BUSINESS FROM NYC WHO ARE USING THIS SHORT TERM RENTALS FOR THEIR EMPLOYEES.

Furthermore a lot of developers and owners of stalled and vacant buildings and small condominiums have to do this short term rentals before they can sell their units, they’re trying to keep from being foreclosed upon and get as much money as they can so they can keep their head above water.

THIS BILL IS A CLASSIC EXAMPLE OF POLITICIANS WHO WILL SOMETIMES ENACT LEGISLATION BEFORE DOING ANY STUDY OF THE FINANCIAL IMPACT! THESE TOURISTS ARE POURING INTO OUR LOCAL NYC ECONOMY BILLIONS! WE NEED THEM HERE! JUST LOOK IT UP.

There is no other state with such a stupid law!

Furthermore, by allowing the property owners to do part of their building short-term rentals, the property owners are able to lower the rent for the permanent tenants and make the permanent apartments more affordable. If this bill passes, the property owners will have now choice but to increase the rent for the permanent tenants.
“This bill will in fact result in less affordable housing”.
July 1, 2010, 6 pm
dave from Williamsburg says:
As someone that has the misfortune to live in one of these hotels I completely disagree with the comment above that “vacationers are not going to harm anyone”. In my building we had a female tenant harassed walking to her apartment late at night. She called the cops and the tourist was arrested not for harassing but for drug possession. We have also had Manhattan residents come to our building rent a room for the night and invite 50-100 people and thrown a party. The building has drastically decreased since the “Hotel” took over the building. These illegal hotels also hire illegal workers that clean the rooms. There is also constant moving of mattress between rooms and building which I believe will lead to bed bug infestation.

The statement that the hotel will provide lower rent for the permanent tenants and make the permanent apartments more affordable is a flat out lie. The owners have not decreased the rent and made no effort to lower the rent. We have signed leases up to two years and are paying already above market value for the Williamsburg area. The question of affordable housing is a moot point. In good faith the permanent tenants rented these apartments at above market value. These were to be luxury apartments. This has nothing to do with affordability.
July 15, 2010, 4:32 pm
Sunny from Williamsburg says:
I agree that the some of these illegal hotels are a problem, but do people realize that this bill makes it totally illegal for any resident of a three family or larger building to sublet any part of their apartment for less than 30 days?

The bill is overly broad and needs serious amendment.

Also, I spoke to someone at length in Lopez's office and she said he did not help draft the bill, but signed off on it.
July 26, 2010, 5:03 pm

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