The Daily Dirt: Airbnb cuts a union deal

An analysis of New York's top real estate news

Jan.January 13, 2020 01:00 PM
The agreement was signed today in Manhattan by Nathan Blecharczyk, Airbnb co-founder and chief strategy officer (right), and Frank Spencer, general vice president of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters.

The agreement was signed today in Manhattan by Nathan Blecharczyk, Airbnb co-founder and chief strategy officer (right), and Frank Spencer, general vice president of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters.

Some of Airbnb’s fiercest fights have been against hotel unions. But the start-up just inked an agreement with one of the most powerful construction unions.

Airbnb announced Friday that it will hire union carpenters for real estate projects in which it invests, Sylvia Varnham O’Regan reports. It’s not clear exactly what Airbnb gets out of this agreement, but the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America is a potentially powerful political ally.

And if Airbnb goes public this year, it could probably use all the friends it can get. Especially in New York, where it’s technically illegal in most buildings for an apartment to be rented out for less than 30 days unless the permanent tenant is residing in the apartment at the same time. Across the Hudson River, the company failed to win over residents who voted in favor of an Airbnb ban in buildings with more than four units — despite waging a $4.2 million campaign. The Hotel Trades Council and a campaign largely funded by the hotel industry spent around $1 million supporting the ban.

This isn’t the first time Airbnb has partnered with a union, though. In 2018, it worked with the Australian Transport Workers’ Union to promote fair pay and better labor standards. It also partnered with the cleaners’ union United Voice in Australia last year.

In recent years, the carpenters’ union and other construction unions have reached agreements with developers to guarantee work for their members. Often in these deals, as was the case with the carpenters’ union’s agreement with Related Companies at Hudson Yards, the unions’ pension funds invest in the developers’ projects. Airbnb indicated Friday that the UBC will not be investing in its projects.

What we’re thinking about: Faith Hope Consolo hid her true origin story for decades. Is this kind of charade still possible (what with the internet and all)? Send a note to [email protected].


Residential: The priciest residential closing recorded Friday was for a condo unit at 15 Hudson Yards, at $9.4 million.

Commercial: The most expensive commercial closing of the day was for two apartment buildings at 29-07 31st Avenue and 30-95 29th Street in Astoria, at $18.9 million.


The largest new building filing of the day was for a 417,734-square-foot office building at 500 East 30th Street in Kips Bay. NYC Health + Hospitals filed the permit application.


The priciest residential listing to hit the market was for a condo unit at 443 Greenwich Street in Tribeca, at $52 million. Brown Harris Stevens has the listing.

A thing we’ve learned…

Safehold, a real estate investment trust that focuses on ground leases, owns the land under the headquarters of NASA’s Joint Polar Satellite System division in Maryland. Meanwhile, NASA’s headquarters in Washington D.C. is owned by South Korean investment firm Hana Asset Management. Thank you to Kevin Sun, who provided this tidbit.

Elsewhere in New York

— Gothamist tracked down the artist behind the old timey poster depicting Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s vision of 2020. The governor’s “creative process” is really something. The poster is inspired by a 1900 Williams Jennings Bryan campaign poster, an “octopus poster,” if you will.

— The panel created to come up with recommendations for the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway project has recommended … that the city create another panel, Politico New York reports.

— Eeek! The two door malfunctions that led the MTA to pull nearly 300 subway cars out of commission was apparently just the tip of the iceberg. The City reports that there were actually at least 10 incidents involving doors. In an extreme incident that is one of my worst nightmares realized, a set of doors on a C train remained “a few inches ajar” because a locking mechanism wasn’t working properly.

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