Members, Elected Officials Speak Out Against Airbnb

Hotel Voice — October 31, 2017

Among the elected officials joining our members at City Hall are NYS Senator Liz Krueger, Assembly Members Linda Rosenthal (speaking at the podium), Deborah Glick, and Victor Pichardo, City Council Member Ritchie Torres, Assembly Members Bobby Carroll, Richard Gottfried and Yuh-Line Niou. Council Members Corey Johnson and Margaret Chin also attended.

By Josh Rosenbaum

Since our last edition of Hotel Voice lawmakers who are leading the fight against illegal hotels joined members of our union for a press conference on the steps of City Hall.

The event was led by Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, who authored the legislation that banned the advertising of illegal rentals of units in Class A multiple dwellings buildings for less than 30 days. Our strong support for that legislation was instrumental in its passage, and we are also supporting Assemblymember Rosenthal’s new legislation to require Airbnb to disclose the address of every listing in New York.

“For far too long,” Rosenthal said, standing in front of HTC members, “Airbnb has been able to hide its illegal activity behind the anonymity of its platform which provides commercial operators and other serial law breakers with cover.”

This point was emphasized by nearly every speaker at the conference, most of whom thanked us for our continued work on this issue. City Council members such as Manhattan’s Corey Johnson told how Airbnb was harming their districts. “Airbnb has negatively compromised the quality of life and safety for thousands upon thousands of my constituents,” Johnson said.

Councilmember Ritchie Torres described Airbnb as the “worst company in New York City,” saying there is no other company that “undercuts affordability and job quality and public safety on the sweeping scale of Airbnb.” In stark contrast, as City Councilmember Margaret Chin noted, “we have hotels all throughout the city—all the boroughs have hotels—and they offer good paying jobs.”

“We love people to come to New York City, but we love them to stay in our hotels that pay taxes to the city of New York and offer jobs to New Yorkers who are hardworking and want a decent job that pays benefits,” said Assemblymember Deborah Glick.

Unfortunately, Airbnb has played a major role in changes in our industry that threaten our livelihoods. According to a report released in July, the average cost of a hotel room in New York City has dipped sharply over the past three years. Obviously, this drop comes with major consequences for the hotels and the union jobs they provide.

Thanks to the political power our members have built, however, the threat Airbnb poses to our livelihoods and communities has been reduced, though clearly not eliminated.

And our union’s work on this issue is not unrecognized Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou noted these efforts, saying, “Advocates from community based organizers and HTC are out there fighting against bad landlords and developers to ensure that our families—working men and women and seniors—have access to the affordable housing they deserve.”

Rosenthal’s new, common sense legislation would target illegal activity, protect our communities, and defend our livelihoods. Assemblymember Richard Gottfriend, another leader in this fight, put it simply: “People should not be able to conduct an illegal business in secret.” This law is not an attempt to force Airbnb into a double standard, but rather to ensure they are acting like every other responsible business. State Senator Liz Krueger explained, saying, “if you are in a commercial enterprise, government gets your name—that’s how it works.”

This press conference was an opportunity to renew our commitment to defending our jobs, our industry, our communities, and our city, and it served as a reminder that we need to be active to protect what we have. As Assemblymember Rosenthal proclaimed to our members’ loud and long round of applause, “When you mess with our affordable housing, when you mess with our hardworking families, you mess with all of us.”

(Editor’s note: The author of this article, Josh Rosenbaum, is a student at Tulane University who has interned at HTC the last two summers.)