In the wake of a report that says owners of more than 200 residential buildings in Manhattan are improperly renting to tourists, elected officials are calling on Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Paterson to pass legislation cracking down on illegal hotels.
The report, compiled by the Illegal Hotels Working Group, said landlords are exploiting a loophole under which they can rent out "affordable" housing for short-term stays and risk only a onetime $800 fine. Because building owners can make thousands of dollars each night from tourists, elected officials said, the fine is insignificant.
"It's creating incentives for landlords to push out tenants," a member of the City Council, Daniel Garodnick, said at a press conference in Midtown yesterday. "Illegal hotels are proliferating in Manhattan, and it has to stop."
The report also states that more than 20 of the buildings have unfairly benefited from $188 million in tax abatements intended for "affordable" housing units.
The lawmakers are suggesting bills be introduced to increase the penalties for operating the hotels and clarify legal language prohibiting short-term leases in certain buildings. One such measure has already been proposed in the City Council.
Matthew Abuelo, a tenant at 345 W. 86th St., a building that is allegedly operating as an illegal hotel, said the influx of tourists has resulted in constant noise and broken elevators.
"Our neighbors have been getting harassed endlessly," Mr. Abuelo said. "If anyone tries to talk to the landlord, they get blown off."
Some of the buildings listed in the report include Trump Place on Riverside Boulevard and Worldwide Plaza on West 50th Street. The managers of the buildings could not be reached for comment.
Don Lewis, the owner of another of the buildings listed in the report, Riverside Tower, said his building is a legitimate hotel. He said he could have been accused because the hotel also contains 14 permanent tenants. He said the scope of illegal hotel operation in New York has been "vastly" overstated.
"We have every right to rent to tourists," Mr. Lewis said. "There are very decent hotels that have a handful of permanent residents in their buildings."
A spokesman for the mayor's office of special enforcement, Jason Post, said the Bloomberg administration is working with the City Council to find a solution. "As the report released today notes, the Mayor created the Office of Special Enforcement as a dedicated unit to follow up on quality of life issues like illegal hotels. The problem has grown out of a gray area in the law, which the Administration, in response to discussions with the illegal hotels task force, has developed a framework to fix," Mr. Post said in a statement.