New Report: Airbnb Causing Rent Escalation on the Lower East Side (Updated)

Screen shot from Airbnb's website.

Screen shot from Airbnb’s website.

A new report by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer finds that Airbnb is causing rents to rise significantly in popular Manhattan and Brooklyn neighborhoods, including the Lower East Side.

In a press release, Stringer’s office explained:

The new analysis sheds light on how Airbnb listings, particularly in neighborhoods where they are most heavily concentrated, exacerbate New York City’s affordability challenges and make it harder for working- and middle-class families to make ends meet… Airbnb listings were heavily concentrated in parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn and had a greater impact on these neighborhoods. Approximately 20% of the increase in rental rates was due to Airbnb listings in midtown and lower Manhattan, including neighborhoods such as Chelsea, Clinton, and Midtown Business District; Murray Hill, Gramercy, and Stuyvesant Town; Chinatown and Lower East Side; Battery Park City, Greenwich Village, and Soho.

Lets take a look at some neighborhood-specific data from the report.

In 2016, there were 2,746 Airbnb listings on the Lower East Side and in Chinatown. Between 2009 and 2016, average monthly rent shot up by $242, to $1,294. There are, of course, many other factors that lead to rent increases, but the comptroller estimates that Airbnb is responsible for nearly 20% of the increase in this community. Airbnb accounts for about 3% of the total rental housing stock on the Lower East Side.

In a statement, Stringer said:

For years, New Yorkers have felt the burden of rents that go nowhere but up, and Airbnb is one reason why. From Bushwick to Chinatown and in so many neighborhoods in-between, affordable apartments that should be available to rent never hit the market, because they are making a profit for Airbnb. Airbnb has grown exponentially at the expense of New Yorkers who face rising rents and the risk of being pushed out of communities they helped build. If we’re going to preserve the character of our neighborhoods and expand our middle class, we have to put people before profits. It’s that simple.”

While Stringer says the report accounted for other factors, such as rezonings, Airbnb went on the attack yesterday regarding the comptroller’s findings. Here’s a statement the home sharing firm sent around to reporters:

Airbnb has filed a Freedom of Information Law request with the New York City Comptroller’s Office for any and all communications regarding the conception and development of their factually wrong report on the impact of home sharing on New York City’s housing market. The very foundation of the report is deeply flawed: assuming that all Airbnb Hosts are renting their homes 365 nights a year is akin to conducting a traffic study that assumes all cars in New York are on the road all day, every day. Additionally, other information has been brought to our attention and we have reason to believe that this report was influenced by powerful special interests. This report was paid for with taxpayer dollars and the public has the right to know about who participated in this snow job.
A 2014 report from the state attorney general’s office found that around three-quarters of all Airbnb listings in New York City were illegal. State law bars apartment owners and lease-holders from renting units for fewer than 30 days, unless the owner is present.

UPDATE 5/7 Airbnb continued its PR battle later in the day on Friday, with a letter from AirDNA, a company that analyzes Airbnb data. The comptroller’s report relied on information collected by the market research firm. Here’s part of the letter:

The (Stringer) report, which incorrectly interpreted AirDNA data to make assumptions on the impact of Airbnb on New York City rental prices, comes to flawed conclusions at great cost to the thousands of Airbnb hosts that rely on the platform to make ends meet. At no point did the Comptroller contact AirDNA to ask for guidance or our professional expertise on how to read the data, leading to several crucial errors in his interpretation of the numbers. The Comptroller mistakes every unique listing ever uploaded onto the site as the number listings that were active in that year. A large portion of Airbnb listings are not active. They sit idly on the site, made unavailable for rent by hosts and/or unbooked by guests, and therefore have little to no effect on rent prices.

In response, Sascha Owen, a spokeswoman for the comptroller, told the Times,  that the report, “took an empirical, data-driven approach to assessing this Airbnb effect and shared it with the public… It’s no surprise that AirDNA would attack a credible report when their own bottom line depends on Airbnb’s success.”

Lower East Side Links

- Two “Manhattan millennials” plan to protest an annual Chinese dog eating festival held in China’s southern Yulin province by bringing nearly a dozen dogs to Chinatown today and plastering the area with purple anti-animal abuse ribbons.  [NYPost]

– In Sarah Larson’s review of the controversial Hotel Indigo bar, Mr. Purple, she says, “If you go, raise a glass of decent whiskey to another local icon: the Luna Lounge, the shabby and wonderful bar, formerly at this location, that doesn’t live here anymore.” Also, the drinks are pricey and mediocre. [NewYorker]

– The NY State Assembly passed a pension forfeiture measure (again) that will strip the pensions of any lawmaker convicted of a felony related to their public office. The measure gained traction after last year’s convictions of Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos. [timesunion]

– Owner Aby Rosen will have all the graffiti scrubbed of the Germania Bank Builiding (190 Bowery) this weekend, except for one longstanding piece by NEKST, a graffiti artist who died several years ago. [MassAppeal]

– Angry Community Board members want a better proposal for the new building slated for the former Peter Stuyvesant Post Office on 14th Street. Developers “are lobbying to receive a zoning variance for a 12-story building — four more than the area’s zoning allows.” [EVGrieve]

– City Comptroller Scott Stringer looks to be getting serious about running against Mayor Bill de Blasio in next year’s primary. [NYMag]

Borough President Asks CB3 to Reconsider Block Association Policy

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has weighed in on the dispute between Community Board 3 and the LES Dwellers neighborhood organization.

Officials Allocate $7 Million For Brooklyn Bridge Beach

Local officials gathered along the East River this morning to announce they have set aside $7 million to develop a beach and park under the Brooklyn Bridge.

Borough President Urges Residents to Join Community Boards

Today's news conference at the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association on Mott Street.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer came to Chinatown today in search of a few good men and women. As the application deadline approaches to join the city’s community boards, he joined City Councilmember Margaret Chin and community activists to urge downtown residents to consider serving on CB1, 2 or 3.

Since taking office in 2006, Stringer says the Asian membership of Community Board 3 has tripled. This year, the borough president would like to see even more Asians join the boards, as well as people representing other ethnic groups and younger residents.

Tomorrow night, his office is hosting an information session specifically for “young professionals” interested in applying for board positions.  It takes place at 6:30 p.m. in the Municipal Building, 1 Centre Street (19th floor).  You can RSVP by 212-669-4465 or sending an email to: conference@manhattanbp.org.

Stringer appoints all of the members of Manhattan’s 12 community boards. Half of the appointees are chosen in collaboration with City Council members. A screening panel decides which applicants are eligible. The deadline to apply is January 13th. More info on the application process available on the BP’s web site.

One other note. In the weeks ahead, Stringer will by trying to lower the age limit for community members to 16. It will require legislation in Albany.

 

City Council Cash – How the LES Stacks UP

Borough President Scott Stringer spoke during the ribbon cutting at the LES Jewish Conservancy's Visitor's Center this past spring.

Earlier this week, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer called on the City Council to reform the way it awards grants to community organizations.  The grants, known as “member items,” are seen by many as pork-barrel spending, tools elected officials use to repay political supporters. Others view the “discretionary” fund as an essential lifeline to the city’s many non-profit social service and cultural institutions.

Stringer released a report detailing which Council districts get the most money.  The unsurprising conclusion?

The analysis, the most comprehensive study to date, reveals deep inequities within the current system over the last four fiscal years and recommends that these taxpayer dollars—totaling $49.6 million in this year’s budget—should be transferred to mayoral agencies for distribution, to take politics out of the process… Under the current system, some districts receive more than four times the amount of discretionary member items than others. The Borough President’s report notes that the adoption of a uniform, across-the-board distribution of member items would have given added funding to 32 districts across the city.

Chin, Stringer Give Gulick Park $650,000

Parks Department planners have been working on designs for a new and improved Luther Gulick Park — now they’ve got a bit more money to get the job done. This week, neighborhood activists learned City Councilwoman Margaret Chin has allocated an additional $400,000 (on top of $550,000 her office already earmarked for the project). Manhattan Borough President has kicked in $250,000 (last year he allocated $500,000).

Community Board Appointments Announced

This afternoon, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has announced 310 appointments to the city’s 12 community boards. The City Charter authorizes the borough presidents to select board members. Half of the appointments are made in consultation with relevant City Council members.  Here’s a look at the new members Stringer selected for Community Board 3:

  • Gary Tai
  • Charlotte Miles
  • David Conn
  • Natasha Dillon
  • Karen Blatt (Margaret Chin)
  • Carlina Rivera (Rosie Mendez)
  • Jack Waters (Rosie Mendez)

If you would like to see the complete list, including re-appointments, click here.

CB3’s Full Board Unanimously Approves SPURA Guidelines; Stringer Endorses Plan

This evening Community Board 3 voted unanimously to endorse a set of planning guidelines for the redevelopment of the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, effectively putting an end to the Lower East Side’s longest and most bitter grudge match.

It was a dramatic evening, full of heartfelt speeches from both supporters and opponents of the proposal to build low, middle and market rate housing (and retail) on the 7 acre site. We’ll have a complete report in the morning. Here’s reaction tonight from Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer:

Tonight, Community Board 3 unanimously supported guidelines for the development of the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA). Now the Lower East Side community, for the first time, has a chance to endorse a SPURA plan with a foundation of community consensus. Under the leadership of Chair Dominic Pisciotta and Committee Chair David McWater, the members of the Board have achieved something remarkable – they have put aside decades of disagreements and created a roadmap for how SPURA development can meet community needs.  This process represents the best in community planning, and I look forward to working with local stakeholders as the process continues.

Stringer Calls For Stepped Up Enforcement to Clear Bike Lanes

There was a media happening this morning at the corner of St. Marks Place & 2nd Avenue. Channel 2, Channel 5 and NY1 crowded onto the sidewalk to hear Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer reveal results of an “unprecedented survey of bike lane safety.”

Elected Officials Call on DOE to “Fix” Girls Prep Situation

We just returned from 1 Centre Street, where elected officials and education advocates rallied against the Education Department’s decision to proceed with its expansion of the Girls Prep Charter School. Today’s event was organized by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who denounced the DOE’s “tactic to bulldoze parent input.”

NYU Expansion Forum Tonight

There will be a “land-use education forum” at six this evening at the Center for Architecture, 536 Laguardia Place.  The event is being sponsored by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Councilmember Margaret Chin and Community Board 2. According to a news release from Stringer’s office, the forum is tied to the land use process New York University will be required to go through before its massive expansion (our phrase, not Stringer’s) can go forward.

Good News for Gulick Park

IMG_6906

Photo courtesy: Friends of Gulick Park.

 

The Friends of Gulick Park got some good news this week.  For the past year, we’ve been reporting about their efforts to transform the ragged little section of the neighborhood at Delancey and Willett streets. The City Council had already allocated $360,000 for the rehabilitation of Gulick Park, and State Senator Daniel Squadron kicked in $100,000 more.  Now an additional $1,050,000  – $550,000 from City Councilmember Margaret Chin and $500,000 from Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer – has been earmarked for the project.

Fighting to Save City Services

Last week's City Hall rally to save after school programs.

As the haggling continues in Albany over the state’s budget, members of the City Council are gearing up for the big fights ahead once it becomes clear what programs will be cut and how deeply.  It’s been clear for months now that all kinds of services – senior centers, after school programs, schools, fire houses, – will be hit hard.  This week, the state narrowly averted a government shutdown.  And lawmakers have now agreed to vote on portions of the budget (transportation, public safety, economic development).

Elected Officials Urge Safety Improvements on Delancey

Photo by Jennifer Strom

An update on yesterday’s fatal accident on Delancey Street. As we reported (here and here), a pedestrian was struck and killed around 4am as he was crossing the street (near Essex). The body was not moved for several hours, creating a gruesome scene during the morning rush hour.  Now our elected officials are speaking out about the pedestrian dangers on Delancey. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, State Senator Daniel Squadron and City Councilmember Margaret Chin released the following statement: