City Cracks Down on Illegal Hotels

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By John Friia City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, along with other elected officials, introduced new legislation last week that would crack down on illegal hotels operating throughout the city by increasing fines. Owners of residential buildings have been converting their properties into illegal hotels, by renting rooms and apartments to tourists at lower prices than standard hotels. However, this problem creates much larger problems for the community than a simple illegal use of a residential building. "Time and time again, we hear from residents who have been pushed out of their homes by landlords looking to make a quick buck. Our legislation will make sure there are immediate and severe consequences for landlords who endanger the safety of residents and tourists and take away affordable housing from New Yorkers in need," Quinn stated at the hearing. The proposed law will include fines ranging from $1,000 to $25,000 for illegal hotel violators. Quinn and the City Council estimated that there could be around 35,000 apartments that have been converted into illegal hotel rooms. Many of them can be found in the Lower East Side; however, earlier this year there were a few illegal hotels discovered on the Upper West Side. For actual tenants at such buildings, tourists returning late at night have caused disturbances and illegal structural changes have compromised safety in the event of an emergency. In 2010, New York State passed a law that increased the protection of residents by placing strict restrictions on operating illegal hotels. However, the problem still persists, and the City Council wants to make sure that there is available affordable housing for New Yorkers and safe conditions for tourists. State Sen. Liz Krueger was one of the representatives who introduced that bill and attended the hearing. "Illegal hotel operators have removed thousands of affordable apartments from an already tight housing market, hurting tenants across the city," Krueger said. "The City Council's action today sends a strong message to these scofflaws: Breaking the law is not a good business model." Elected officials and displaced tenants were not the only people there to show their support. Representatives of the Hotel Association were voicing their opposition to the operation of illegal hotels. Vijay Dandpani, president of Apple Core Hotels and member of the Hotel Association, explained that the operators of the illegal hotels do not conform to the safety regulations that are in place for hotels. Before the law goes into effect, the City Council has to approve the proposed legislation.

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