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City Files $1.2 Million Lawsuit to Shut Down “Airbnb Hotels”

Lower East Side

Airbnb Lawsuit

Rose King's building at 536 East 14th Street (the red building, second from right) that is the target of a $1.2 million lawsuit (image via Google Maps)

May 16, 2017

As of last week, not a single violation had been levied in the city’s hotbed of illegal sublet listingsEast Williamsburg, Brooklyn – and only two had been issued in the entire borough. The city has issued a total of $284,000 in fines to 16 landlords citywide since the law went into effect in February. At the current rate of enforcement of the state’s new “anti-Airbnb” law forbidding advertising for short-term sublets, it will take the city 43 years to address all violations.

This spotty crackdown on illegal sublets got a jolt of adrenaline over the weekend, when the city filed a $1.2 million lawsuit against Rose King, charging that she used Airbnb to advertise sublets of a dozen apartments in three buildings on the Lower East Side for fewer than 30 days, the New York Post reports.

“We removed [the listings] while we investigate the situation,” an Airbnb spokesman says.

In Manhattan Supreme Court on Monday, Judge James d’Auguste told King: “Ma’am I want you to listen very carefully. Under New York law the apartments in these buildings cannot be rented for periods of less than 30 days.” The judge warned King that if she violated his order barring her from continuing to rent the apartments through Airbnb, he could find her in “contempt of court” and the city could put the properties in receivership. “Your very ownership of the buildings may be in jeopardy,” d’Auguste added.

A full hearing will be held next week to determine the fate of King’s three properties – at 536 East 14th Street, 123 Ludlow Street, and 127 Rivington Street.

King has been hiding behind a middle man and at least nine aliases to create a network of transient hotels, according to the city’s lawsuit against her. And one of the building’s permanent residents told city officials that King is trying to evict rent-stabilized tenants from her properties to convert even more units into cash-cow ­Airbnbs.

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