Scoopy’s, Week of July 10, 2014
Something in the Airbnb? At the Village Independent Democrats’ May 30 endorsement meeting, Assemblymember Keith Wright spoke on behalf of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s re-election bid. That much we understood. What we eventually didn’t quite get, though, was when Wright started riffing about other various issues he’s been dealing with and specifically got on the topic of Airbnb. He held up his smartphone to show that The New York Times’s then No. 1 article, as he put it, was “Airbnb takes to the barricades,” about the home-sharing-style hotel operation’s ongoing battle with state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “Airbnb is a big outfit, but basically they promote illegal hotels,” the Manhattan Democratic County leader told V.I.D. “I think people have a right to know if the people in 5A are…[involved in] drugs, a brothel or any illegal activity.” Then, in the part that puzzled us, he emphatically stated, “I’ve had this bill for two years — the bill ain’t going anywhere. I’m holding the bill — ain’t going nowhere.” Wright, who is chairperson of the Assembly’s Housing Committee, noted he had, in fact, even just held an anti-Airbnb press conference with Congressmember Charles Rangel and state Senator Liz Krueger. However, just a week later, on May 6, the Daily News reported that a coalition of affordable housing advocates, labor unions and tenant associations — dubbed the Real Rent Reform Coalition — is fighting two bills that seek to loosen restrictions on using Airbnb in New York. The bills would both exempt so-called “good actors” from a 2010 law targeting illegal hotels that prohibits renting apartments by the night. As the News reported, “One bill — sponsored by State Senator Martin Golden and Assemblymember Keith Wright — seeks to help ‘legitimate individuals’ who lease their apartments as vacation rentals. Another bill — sponsored by State Senator Diane Savino and Assemblyman Karim Camara — would make exceptions for ‘individuals that rent out their own units to help make ends meet and earn extra income.’” We asked Michael McKee, one of the city’s longtime leading tenants activists, what he made of it all, and he, too, indicated it doesn’t make sense. Basically, he said, if Wright doesn’t intend to move his own bill, why the heck is it even on his desk? More to the point, McKee told us, Airbnb is pouring millions of dollars into its campaign to loosen the rules that currently make what it does illegal, and that includes heavy lobbying of elected officials in Albany. McKee added the decision potentially would ultimately come down to the old “three men in a room,” meaning Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver would be calling the shots for the Assembly. “It ultimately does not matter what Keith Wright says or does with his bill,” McKee scoffed. “If Airbnb wins a bill at the end of session, it will be a negotiated bill — negotiated behind closed doors by Silver and the other legislative leaders. It will not be Keith’s bill and Keith will not be in the loop.” A Silver spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. Well, the legislative session just ended, and we haven’t heard of any negotiated bill — so apparently the Airbnb debate continues to hang in the air. And, speaking of hanging, so do Airbnb’s plentiful P.R. ads, blanketing the subways, featuring the operation’s smiling, happy “hosts” — in-your-face evidence of the mega-bucks P.R. campaign of which McKee spoke. Local pols apparently aren’t too reassured by Wright’s words, either. On June 4, a dozen of them signed a joint letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio, expressing their concern that if the two bills are passed, they would “gut the city’s enforcement system, and have serious repercussions on the housing and homelessness crisis in New York City.” The signatories, who asked for de Blasio’s help in keeping Airbnb in check, included Borough President Gale Brewer, Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, state Senators Brad Hoylman, Liz Krueger and Bill Perkins, and Assemblymembers Deborah Glick and Richard Gottfried, among others — but not Wright, which somehow doesn’t surprise us.
Bring the noise: Extell will start pile-driving on its Lower East Side residential project, at Cherry and South Sts., at the former Pathmark site in seven days. The developer’s decision to split off its affordable housing component into a separate building still has many in the community steamed. However, an informational meeting on Tuesday night with about three dozen local residents was cordial. There was discussion of installation of vibration sensors, among other things.
Pie Man’s plaint: The news that No. 9 Bleecker St., the former Yippie headquarters, will be a hipster boxing gym/party space isn’t sitting well with Aron Kay. Known as the “Yippie Pie Man,” the peaceful Kay has always made his points with pies — not punches — thrown in the faces of the likes of Phyllis Schlafly, William F. Buckley and former Mayor Abe Beame. Joey Goodwin a.k.a. “Soho Joe” and John Galliano, of the Unruly Heir fashion company, have leased out the building and, along with another partner, are recasting it as the NYC Overthrow boxing gym, after the name of the Yippies’ gonzo newspaper, Overthrow, which was published out of the location. In a video, Goodwin explained the place will be “paying homage to what was here before. It’s going to be boxing meets punk rock/Downtown New York.” They recently held a “Friday Night Throwdown” there for a release party for Transmission magazine. “I’m taking a wait-and-see attitude,” Kay said. “I’m not happy about it. I feel I’ve been exiled from a space — by the real estate maggots.” He noted that Dana Beal, the Yippies’ leader, can’t even step foot inside the place because he has a restraining order against him. “Will they let me come and do my political work in there?” the Pie Man asked of the fashionista/pugilists.
Correction: In the June 26 issues of The Villager and East Villager, in the real estate article “Hell’s Kitchen moves up to the head of the pack,” Gotham West’s address was given incorrectly as 420 W. 45th St. The correct address is 550 W. 45th St.