The heat is on in Hell’s Kitchen, NYC. The city has filed a lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court against three Hell’s Kitchen building owners for operating illegal short-term rentals in rent-stabilized apartments. If you’re walking around the Penn Station area and happen to pass the buildings at 410 and 412 West 46th Street and 452 West 36th Street, you will be passing buildings owned by some underhanded owners (Several of which are on the Public Advocate’s worse landlords list. You’ll have to read on for those juicy tidbits.)
The owners have neglected the buildings, harassed tenants to get them to move out, deregulated units and kept units vacant to rent out on a short-term basis. One building in particular had no gas and no roof for six-months in 2015 due to a fire. Other buildings have a long list of code violations.
When city inspectors went to take a look, they found 11 of the 50 apartments that should have been used as rent-stabilized units not rentals at all -- but being used to host Airbnb. (If you ask us, it sounds like they probably didn’t get great reviews under those conditions!) Nine of the apartments were found by The Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement (OSE), which enforces the city’s nuisance abatement law including illegal hotel activity.
Airbnb rentals are big money. According to the suit, the apartments hosted over 700 guests–and raked in $300,000 over three years. Rent-regulated units have been on the decline since 2011, and that’s about when the OSE began getting calls about the illegal hotel activity. In the case of these units, only five units out of 50 are still on the books as rent-stabilized according to DHCR records.
The city is looking to show that this crime doesn’t pay and is seeking over $1 million in punitive damages. There is a movement to stop the short-term rental of apartments for less than 30 days at a time. Mayor Bill de Blasio has been fightingagainst building owners who defy the state’s short-term rental law.
The buildings have an impressive 100 violations for illegal transient occupancy and 250 outstanding violations for hazardous conditions from the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development. All three buildings have been deemed unsafe, which is also tenant harassment.
A spokesman for the mayor’s office said, “Short-term illegal rental platforms like Airbnb make it all too easy for landlords to harass and displace rent stabilized tenants. We will continue to use our enforcement tools to hold these landlords accountable as part of large effort to preserve and protect affordable housing.”
This is a story that will probably keep unfolding as more buildings and apartments with illegal Airbnb rentals come to light. We will keep you posted, as always!
Photo Credit: Patch.com
New York Waterway has been trying to bypass Hoboken’s planning and zoning boards in an effort to build (what many have been describing as a controversial) ferry maintenance and refueling facility. Their efforts have come to a stop, at least for now, thanks to Hudson County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Jablonski.
Judge Jablonski dismissed the ferry company’s lawsuit which requested that the court order not interfere with marine operations at the Union Dry Dock site. The site is the longtime home to the Union Dry Dock and Repair Co. which New York Waterway purchased in 2017 for $11.5 million.
The Mayor of Hoboken, Ravi Bhalla, is happy about the court decision. He said in a statement, "It affirms that no one is above the law, and the rules apply equally to everyone including New York Waterway.” The mayor has plans for the site which includes acquiring the property of Frank Sinatra Drive as a public, open space, saying the ruling "puts us one step closer to making this a reality.”
This is pretty big news, at least for the locals. The dismissal of NY Waterway’s complaint is the latest in a series of nasty fights. Prior to the current disagreement, Hoboken police had stopped operations for minor work being done at the site saying that it was the object of a lawsuit by the city.
NY Waterways attorney Anthony Bocchi argued that local permits are not needed for the offshore work and that the company has state and federal permits to replace piles that the industrial site and bring in two barges, build ramps and gangways.
Close your eyes and pretend you are watching a movie. Heck, forget all of that, this drama is real… Bocchi called the officers’ actions gestapo-like, drawing an emphatic response from Lt. John Petrosino, president of the Hoboken Police Superior Officers Association.
“It’s abhorrent that New York Waterway’s high-paid attorney would equate the Hoboken Police Department as the ‘Gestapo,’" Petrosino said in a statement. “We demand an immediate and unequivocal apology from New York Waterway.”
Bhalla and the city are doing all they can to prevent permits and building. Apparently, Bhalla once said the site would become a ferry facility “over my dead body.” Bocchi said that an electrical permit has not been approved by the city in 17 months and that Bhalla himself posted a stop work order at the location on one occasion.
Let’s see how this turns out since NY Waterway conceded that it will need local permits for onshore portions of the project. As of now, phase one only requires parking and structures similar to what is already there.
Christopher Miller, a Hoboken attorney, noted in court that the city has a right to review NY Waterway’s proposed use for the location. He also said that planning and zoning board review of the project “would not be a process for stopping the industrial project.” He also said, “An order by the judge allowing the company to bypass local approvals would be premature and that only after permits are sought could the court say if the city had acted arbitrarily, capriciously or unfairly.”
In the end, Judge Jablonski ruled that it was premature to say filing for permits would be futile for NY Waterway. He also found that the project’s offshore and onshore portions are “inextricably intertwined” and that NY Waterway’s federal and state permits both require the company to acquire any local permits needed.
NY Waterway CEO, Arthur Imperatore Sr., said “The court has spoken,” said after Monday morning’s hearing. “We will comply.”
But we know it’s…To Be Continued!