City cut off talks with Airbnb after receiving donation from startup’s union foe

Officials say the two incidents are unrelated
February 07, 2017 09:52AM

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration reportedly cut off talks with Airbnb shortly after receiving a large donation from one of the short-term rental company’s opponents.

UniteHere, a union connected to one of Airbnb’s most outspoken opponents, the Hotel & Motel Trades Council, provided $200,000 to de Blasio’s now defunct Campaign for One New York, the New York Daily News reported. The city had been in talks with Airbnb for two months, but just a few days after the donation, Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen stopped discussions with the company. City officials said the halt in communication was due to Airbnb’s refusal to provide certain internal data, not because of the union’s donation.

“Donations have never and will never affect City Hall’s work, in this case enforcing the law against bad actors who threaten public safety and take affordable housing off the market,” spokesperson Melissa Grace told the Daily News. “The city has repeatedly sought data from Airbnb to help us do that, but the company continues to ignore those requests.”

In October, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that increased the fine on Airbnb hosts who advertise illegal short-term rentals for fewer than 30 days. Airbnb immediately filed a lawsuit against the city and state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman — not Cuomo — for the law, but the case was ultimately settled.

Donations to de Blasio’s shuttered nonprofit group have been under high scrutiny for more than a year now, with investigations by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. and the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics.  [NYDN] — Kathryn Brenzel