Airbnb gave Brooklyn boro prez’s non-profit $32K: report

Company's reps met with Eric Adams twice to discuss status of controversial short-term rental firm

TRD New York /
Jun.June 21, 2016 02:35 PM

The nonprofit of Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who has been one of the few New York City lawmakers supporting Airbnb, has collected $32,000 in donations from the short-term rental startup.

 The company’s top lobbying firm, Capalino & Company, met personally with Adams five times, and during two of those meetings Airbnb representatives were present, according to DNAinfo.

 The borough president’s staff met with James Capalino’s company one other time to discuss Airbnb.

Adams became a vocal supporter of Airbnb while colleagues like Public Advocate Letitia James and council members Jumaane Williams, Brad Lander and Carlos Menchaca all opposed the company.

 Airbnb buys “a lot of partnerships,” one opposition group told DNAinfo. “It’s like having an elected official cheerlead for them.”

 Capalino’s public relations company did not respond to requests for comment from DNAinfo. 

Airbnb paid the lobbying firm $150K in 2015 to lobby the Brooklyn borough president and City Council members, and the company also made a $32,000 contribution to Adams’ nonprofit, the One Brooklyn Fund. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s defunct nonprofit, the Campaign for One New York, is currently under investigation concerning donations from those with business before the city. Capalino also happens to be the lobbyist near the center of the Rivington House scandal that has surrounded the mayor.

A spokesperson for the borough president said he met with Airbnb “to learn more about their business, including discussing his concerns with any potential violation of affordable housing regulations.” 

“Borough President Adams is a staunch supporter of the sharing economy and disruptive technology, and he has appreciated an ongoing and productive conversation with Airbnb,” the spokesperson said.

The New York Post reported yesterday that state authorities are investigating several groups that have donated to Adams’ nonprofit, including Park Developers and Builders, which contributed $20,000 to his organization. 

The stakes are arguably higher than ever for the San Francisco-based startup.

As the state legislative session drew to a close last week, the state Legislature passed a bill that would fine Airbnb users $1,000 or more for listing their illegal short-term rentals online.

Renting an entire apartment for 30 days or fewer is illegal in New York, and Airbnb has faced opposition from a broad coalition of interest groups including hotel operators and unions, tenants groups and affordable-housing advocates. An analysis by The Real Deal found about 60 percent of the company’s listings are considered illegal.

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