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AirbnBusted: City cracks down on two makeshift hotels in Southern Brooklyn

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Talk about inn-undated!

Officials cleared out a pair of Southern Brooklyn buildings on June 14 and 15 that had been illegally diced into dozens of illicit hotel rooms — including a two-family home that crammed nearly 30 renters into conditions that imperiled lodgers and neighbors, said a city spokesman.

“Not only did these owners illegally take these units off the market, but they created life-threatening housing conditions for their short-term renters,” said Alexander Schnell, with the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement, which cracks down on quality-of-life issues citywide.

Officials with the special enforcement office busted a Sunset Park building on June 14 that was converted from a two-family home into a whopping 28 tiny hotel rooms for rent on Airbnb — a controversial online hotel market where people can rent out their apartments and homes.

Investigators plastered vacate orders on the building on 58th Street at Seventh Avenue where the cellar had been divided into nine makeshift hotel rooms, with eight more on the ground floor, and 11 on the second story, according to Schnell.

The following day the city busted another makeshift hotel in Bay Ridge whose owner was also renting the shabby spaces on Airbnb. The Sixth Avenue pad was recently purchased and the ground floor and cellar rejiggered as hotel rooms with illegal locks, according to Schnell. An Airbnb listing — which has since been removed — advertised the rooms as a spacious getaway for $199 a night.

Both buildings lacked fire-safety measures and proper exits — leaving renters at risk for roasting alive if there were a fire.

Officials slapped the Bay Ridge flophouse with more than $50,000 in fines and the Sunset Park motel with more than $70,000 in penalties for the illegal hospitality. The Council passed a bill in May that beefed up fines for those who cram tenants into the dangerous living conditions.

Southern Brooklyn is no stranger to dodgy dice-ups, but the pair of properties are the latest in the emerging trend of landlords converting the illicit dwellings into inns, renting out the rooms short-term on Airbnb. From January to June this year, the city cracked down on 14 of the unlawful lodges in Brooklyn — up from seven over the same period last year, according to city data.

And the issue shows no signs of slowing, according to one community leader.

“It’s a continuing trend,” said Josephine Beckmann, district manager of Community Board 10, which has passed along to the city hundreds of Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights addresses suspected of being illegal conversions. “For a number of the locations we complained about as illegal conversions, it’s not clear if they’re hotels or Airbnb — we’ve left that up to city investigators — but we’ve had complaints.”

Now hotel guests displaced by the raids must scramble to find new accommodations because Red Cross shelter services are only offered to long-term residents.

The owner of the Bay Ridge building did not respond to requests for comment and the Sunset Park landlord could not be reached for comment.

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at cspivack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2523. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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