The campaign to crack down on illegal hotels is coming to a head. State
Senator Liz Krueger and Assembly Member Richard Gottfried will join
tenants, housing rights advocates and other state and city officials at
a rally tomorrow to urge Governor David Paterson to sign into law the illegal hotel bill they sponsored. The bill aims to free New York City agencies to enforce the law against illegal hotels — apartments designated as permanent residences that are improperly used as transient hotel rooms. The legislation already passed the Senate and the Assembly. Krueger and Gottfried talked to The Real Deal
about how illegal hotels have threatened the city’s tenants, affordable
housing stock and tourists, where they’ve spread and how this bill is
designed to cease their expansion.
1. Why do landlords operating residential apartments as transient hotels pose such a threat to the city?
The proliferation of illegal hotel operations has removed thousands of
apartments from an already tight housing market, disrupted the lives of
the permanent residents who live in the buildings and decreased the
city’s tax base. Because illegal hotels do not comply with local
building, fire and housing codes that are required for buildings zoned
for transient occupants, they pose a serious threat to public safety.
Additionally, illegal hotels ruin many visitors’ experiences in New
York City and harm the city’s reputation as a tourist-friendly city.
2. How will this new law meaningfully crack down on the practice while other efforts have largely failed?
Gottfried: The bill clarifies ambiguities in state
and city laws that made it impossible for government agencies to
effectively crack down on offenders. The bill would eliminate language
such as “as a rule,” which was interpreted in A Recent Court decision
to render the current law almost meaningless. The bill also draws a
clear, visible line [30-day occupancy] to differentiate permanent from
3. Approximately how many residential apartment buildings
are there being used as illegal hotels in the city, and how much have
they proliferated in recent years as a result of Internet listings?
Krueger: Housing advocates estimate that there
are at least 300 such buildings in New York City — representing many
thousands of units — where illegal hotel operations are taking place.
The Internet has made it easier than ever to advertise illegal hotels.
Even a brief search of the Internet can reveal hundreds of
advertisements for illegal hotels, and most tourists have no idea they
have not made reservations at legitimate hotels until they arrive at
4. How will this bill specifically protect tenants, tourists and affordable housing stock in the city?
Gottfried: This bill will help to preserve the
affordable housing stock; tenants would no longer have to deal with the
nuisance, security, and safety (tourists not knowing what [to] do in
case of fire, fire fighters being confronted with incorrect floor
plans) issues caused by illegal hotels; and tourists would be able to
stay in accommodations that conform with the relevant fire and safety
5. How will this law impact illegally rented, unsold condos?
Krueger: The bill makes it clear that it is illegal
for all Class A multiple dwelling units, which include condominiums, to
be rented for less than 30 days. The bill will make it easier for the
appropriate government agencies to respond to reports of illegal hotels
in unsold condominiums.
6. Are there neighborhoods where illegal hotels have proliferated?
Krueger: All across Manhattan — particularly on
the Upper East and West sides, Midtown, Harlem and the East and West
Village — as well as in Williamsburg and Downtown Brooklyn.
7. Where are the abuses most pronounced?
Gottfried: Most of the worst reports I have heard come from tenants living in SRO buildings.
8. What are a few examples of the most egregious offences related to transient hotel apartments?
Krueger: My office has received numerous reports of
studio-, one-, and two-bedroom apartments being illegally subdivided
into four or more individual “rooms.” In a few cases, illegal hotel
operators have even installed multiple bunk beds in kitchens.
9. What specific illegal hotels have you targeted?
Krueger: My role in this process is legislative and
not enforcement. It is the City of New York’s role to enforce the
provisions of this bill.
Gottfried: As a legislator, my job is to set policy
while city agencies handle enforcement. The city conducts enforcement
operations based on tenant complaints.
Krueger: Again, the role of the legislature is limited to passing this legislation and not the enforcement of its provisions.
Gottfried: I am not familiar with the details of the
city’s enforcement operations against specific buildings. These
buildings are not located in my district.