Earlier today, the New York State Senate passed a bill that, if signed into law by Governor Cuomo, would make it harder to post illegal short-term rentals listings for apartments. The proposed law builds upon a piece of legislation from 2010 that made it illegal for a landlord to rent out a class-A multi-unit dwelling for less than 30 days. The new law would help with enforcement and act as a deterrent by making listing sites like Airbnb liable for facilitating these regulatory violations.
If the measure is enacted, the city would be able to go after the people making these illegal listings—about 72 percent of all Airbnb listings in the city, according to a report from the NY State Attorney General’s office—and fine them for as much as $7,500. The lawmakers argue that these types of listings, which can be far more profitable than a standard monthly or yearly lease, further exacerbate the city’s housing crisis by taking much-needed housing stock away from New Yorkers so it can be rented out to tourists in what are essentially unlicensed hotels. Residents also complain that these short-term renters make for lousy neighbors: smoking in hallways, hanging out on rooftops and fire escapes, staying up late on weeknights because they’re globetrotters without work in the morning.
But, at the end of the day, I would argue that these sites do a much better job than people give them credit for when it comes to integrating these temporary residents into the neighborhoods they’re helping to erode. Want proof? Look no further than Short Term Rentals NYC. This site—which boasts that it posts new short-term listings “hourly (no really!)”—has some of the most accurate neighborhood descriptions around. In fact, I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that whoever runs the site knows New York City better than a Rockefeller who was born on top of a discarded pizza box on the side of the BQE during the ‘86 World Series. Here, for example, is their listing for East Village (bolding mine, spelling and grammar theirs):
The east village really defines the generation. White beards and all. Along with those who come from all over the world who come searching for the original me. Hard rock and define squatting has been transformed to gardening and serious renovation. to walk around you will breath an air that is unimagnable 30 years ago.These gardens in East Village are delicious. The trees are inviting. The vibes are nice and pleasant. Thompson square park that runs the domain of hardcore punks it is all about movies and softball and volley ball. Although, despite the gardens the devil is always lurking around. This area of town can set off a them park with its night life with there bars and night clubs on every other block. Although despite there great partying scene at night the east village has one of the most down to earth vibes during the day with retail all over the east village representing the creative indy retails. Thrift shops, mom and pops, NO BIG RETAILERS WHATSOVER.”
To me, that paragraph pretty much nails the East Village. A veritable “them park”—you know, like a place where them go for fun—the East Village is and will always be a place where the gardens are delicious, but also dangerous because that sneaky, sneak devil is always lurking around them. More than that, though, it’s a place where a complete lack of big retailers is so tied to its character that longtime residents shout in all-caps whenever the words “big retailer” come up as a way to frighten K-Marts and, God forbid, multiple Duane Reades away from the area.
If you like this description, you’ll be pleased to know that they have similarly helpful blurbs for just about every other neighborhood in Manhattan, too.
Their break-down of Chelsea, for example, reads as follows: “If you are looking to move to chelsea good news your gong to have a lot of fun.” And I couldn’t agree more: I brought my sick 30” Zildjian gong to Chelsea once and it had a lot of fun. People banged it all night long.
So, if I’m being honest, I’m not sure what the big deal is. So what if these people aren’t staying long or if they’re only staying for, say, an illegal amount of time? Sites like Short Term Rentals NYC and Airbnb prepare them so well that I would argue it’s basically the same thing as having any other New Yorker as a neighbor.
Airbnb strongly opposes the new legislation—which, again, would target up to 72 percent of all their NYC listings—on altruistic grounds, arguing that it is detrimental to the “thousands of New Yorkers” who are only staying afloat because they’re renting out their apartments, and presumably sleeping on the streets.
“Let’s be clear: this is a bad proposal that will make it harder for thousands of New Yorkers to pay the bills,” an Airbnb spokesperson told TechCrunch. “Dozens of governments around the world have demonstrated that there is a sensible way to regulate home sharing and we hope New York will follow their lead and protect the middle class.”
I called Short Term Rentals NYC to ask for their thoughts on the bill, but they did not immediately respond to a phone call seeking comment. No doubt they’re getting some punkers from the Lower Easterly Side together to stage a protest at City Hall.