The city’s crackdown on Airbnb has claimed three more Manhattan buildings.
The city hit the trio of buildings and their landlord with a lawsuit on Monday over allegedly using Airbnb to advertise illegal short-term rental units in the properties, located at 54 West 39th Street, 208 West 30th Street and 62 Grand Street. Landlord Slavik Gofman runs the corporate entities that control all three buildings, according to the suit.
Gofman and his companies formed at least 21 illegal listings at the buildings through Airbnb and tried to sidestep the city’s laws by saying they were using former office space rather than apartments to offer visitors to the city a place to stay, the suit says. The company made more than 2,800 illegal short-term rental reservations to almost 9,400 guests between 2016 and 2019 and earned about $1.7 million in revenue from the listings, according to the lawsuit.
City inspections found that the defendants illegally converted the ninth floor at 54 West 39th Street from showroom and factory space to short-term rental space, the fourth floor at 62 Grand Street from manufacturing space to short-term rental space, and the sixth, 10th and 12th floors at 208 West 30th Street from showroom and office space to short-term rental space, the lawsuit says. The defendants did illegal construction work at the properties as well, according to the suit.
The lawsuit also criticizes Gofman for supplanting “small businesses that could have used the commercial and manufacturing spaces” in his buildings by converting it into residential space.
The city hit the three buildings with more than $46,000 in civil penalties prior to filing the lawsuit, according to court documents.
The suit asks the court to ban space in the buildings from being used as short-term rentals going forward and have the defendants pay the city a fine of $1,000 per day for each day they violated its rules on short-term rentals. It seeks $500,000 in punitive damages for the city as well.
“The message is clear: illegal hotel operators who flout the law will see consequences–and their day in court,” City Hall spokeswoman Avery Cohen said in a statement.
Airbnb released a statement in response to the lawsuit saying that the company “strongly opposes illegal hotels” and calling for “a comprehensive, statewide bill that would provide strict recourse against illegal hotel operators, while protecting the rights of thousands of regular New Yorkers who are responsibly sharing their homes.”
Gofman did not respond to a request for comment.
The New York Hotel Trades Council, a staunch opponent of Airbnb, gave Mayor Bill de Blasio’s presidential campaign one of its few endorsements earlier this summer.