Tourists Evicted, Neighbors Relieved

Feb 17 2015 | 04:03 AM

City closes hotel rooms in apartment building under new state law City marshals came to the Tempo building last Friday to give tourists the boot. A reported 89 rooms in the Upper West Side building have been operating as a hotel for years, alongside permanent residents, but a state law passed last year made them illegal. Officials say the hotel was flouting the law and enraging permanent residents, who say they're entitled to live next door to regular neighbors instead of a constant stream of budget travelers. Some of those tourists became the inadvertent casualties of the crackdown at 240 W. 73rd St. Mary DeGendre, a former New Yorker who now lives in Paris and was visiting with her husband and three teenaged daughters, had booked a suite at the Tempo for the week for $2,000. When they arrived after a 16-hour flight on the day of the crackdown, they were told they could not check in and scrambled to find another place to stay at the last minute. "This was my Valentine's Day present from my husband," DeGendre said, standing with her daughters and their luggage on the sidewalk as they scrambled to find alternate accommodation. "I'm a former New Yorker, I came here to visit, and I'm furious." The family eventually trudged off to the Beacon at a rate of $360 a night, adding more than $500 to their expected expenses. While visitors became the unwitting victims of a sudden eviction, permanent tenants of the building say they've been suffering for much longer and are the real victims of the situation that they hope will now improve. "There's people coming and going at all times, an unbelievable volume," said Stefan Capan, a real estate broker who has lived in the building, surrounded for the past six years by a revolving door of tourists, for 30 years. "The elevators are constantly breaking down. I have a different neighbor every day." Capan and his neighbors are hoping that this eviction will bring them some peace. The building is owned by Aimco, a company that operates apartment buildings and residences around the country, and most of the units are for permanent tenants. Eighty-nine units in the building, however, are rented to a company called Woogo, which has been operating a hotel out of the building under the name Woogo-Central Park. This kind of commingled hotel operation within a permanent residential building was the target of the state law, which was passed in an effort to return these small apartment-like rooms back into affordable housing units. Representatives at Woogo did not respond to requests for comment, but it still appears possible to make reservations for the hotel through popular sites like Trip Advisor and Orbitz. A studio room rents for over $200 on a weekend night-still a bargain compared to other hotels in the neighborhood. City Council Member Gale Brewer and State Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal were both on the scene April 13, helping stranded tourists and talking to residents. "We hope this means that the rooms and apartments that are here become permanent housing for West Siders," Brewer said. She described many ongoing problems that residents have had living with transient guests, like all-night partying and loud noises. "[They] should not have rented out rooms to unsuspecting tourists," said Rosenthal, who worked on the hotel law. She said she sympathizes with the stranded visitors but is happy that residents are finally getting some relief. "He's allowed the quiet enjoyment of his apartment," she said of Capan. "It's a threat to his safety, because they don't screen [guests] for criminal records. It's just untenable."