UWS hotel settles with city over illegal short-term rentals

Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement partnered with tenants in fight against Imperial Court Hotel

TRD New York /
Aug.August 10, 2020 01:25 PM
Imperial Hotel at 307 West 97 Street (Photo via Google Maps)

Imperial Hotel at 307 West 79 Street (Photo via Google Maps)

For some rent-stabilized tenants living at the Imperial Court Hotel, the hoards of temporary residents streaming through their building had made it feel like a party house.

Loud music blared into the night; marijuana and cigarette smoke wafted under doorways and into their homes; rubbish piled up in the hallways, according to court filings.

And so, in 2016, a group of five tenants sued the owners of the single-room occupancy hotel at 307 West 79th Street, claiming they were violating state law that prohibits renting units for less than 30 days. That July, the Mayor’s office of Special Enforcement also joined the case.

This week, after years of back and forth, the parties reached a settlement in the dispute, The Real Deal has learned. Under the agreement, the hotel will stop all short-term rental activity in the building and pay $290,000 in fines.

The settlement is part of a wider city crackdown on illegal short-term rentals, and comes after the city reached a separate settlement with Airbnb in June. The Office of Special Enforcement is also in talks with Airbnb software partner Guesty about resolving another listings dispute dating back to March.

“At a time of heightened concern about safe affordable housing and tenants’ rights, the decision marks an important victory for all New Yorkers,” Christian Klossner, OSE’s executive director, said in a statement.

Charles Chehebar, the lawyer representing the hotel, did not respond to requests for comment. Michael Edelstein, the hotel’s owner, declined to comment.

The site had been on the city’s radar for many years. New York assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal said she had been trying since 2007 to get the owners of Imperial to stop offering rooms for short-term rentals, after spending several nights there herself.

“To me, it’s an ongoing war of terror on the tenants,” she said.

In response to the tenants’ legal claims, lawyers for the hotel said in court filings that the case was frivolous, and should be thrown out.

The OSE said it had also received numerous 311 complaints, and on one inspection determined that as many as 99 of the hotel’s 227 rooms had been taken off the housing market to use as short-term rentals.

In light of the settlement, Rosenthal said she was “going to be demanding that the city and state work together to re-regulate those apartments and have [Edelstein] rent them out — not warehouse them, which is another tactic landlords are employing now.”

Write to Sylvia Varnham O’Regan at [email protected]


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