City Council Cracks Down On Illegal Hotels
The city's tourism industry is booming but the City Council wants to make sure it's growing legally, so they are cracking down on illegal hotels. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.
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City officials want tourists to enjoy their stay in New York. They just don't want them to stay in inadequate accommodations.
"I cannot tell you how many times the fire department has been in these buildings," said City Councilwoman Gale Brewer. "They have been checking the sprinklers. They have been checking the egress. And they are not there."
So the City Council approved a new crackdown on illegal hotels Wednesday.
The legislation follows up on a state law last year and a sting operation on illegal hotels by the Bloomberg administration.
Under the proposal, violators could be fined anywhere between $1,000 to $25,000.
"Permanent residential apartments cannot be used as transient hotel apartments," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
It is illegal to rent out a residence for fewer than 30 days. Nonetheless, it's a practice officials say has become pervasive.
"The people at 1 Bank St have suffered through this and Imperial Court and, recently, 221 West 16th St and 168 Bleecker St," said State Sen. Tom Duane.
"You can't start saying 'I own a home' and 'hey, suddenly I want to be a hotelier,'" said Vijay Dandapani, the vice chairman of the Hotel Association of New York City. "There is a process involved for it."
The legislation has also highlighted a burgeoning trade across the country: renting out your apartment online. That, too, is illegal and subject to new fines.
Officials at websites like Airbnb were not pleased by the legislation's approval.
"It would be a shame for the city to stifle this new form of economic activity that New Yorkers have helped pioneer," a spokesperson for Airbnb said in a statement.
Tourism has been one of the fastest-growing areas of the city's economy. Some fear the crackdown could stifle that growth.
"This is an industry we should be embracing," said City Councilman James Oddo. "We talk about jobs. We talk about the economy."
Quinn isn't ruling out working with businesses like Airbnb to find a way to make their activity legitimate.
As for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, he is expected to sign the legislation.