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Mayor de Blasio Announces Up to $65,000 in Violations Against Upper West Side SRO Running 99 Units in "Illegal Hotel"

June 6, 2016

Illegal short term rentals threaten availability of long-term housing, stability of communities and safety

NEW YORK––Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced that the City has issued violations that could result in up to $65,000 in fines against the owners of the Imperial Court Hotel, located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, for continuing to illegally rent short-term units in violation of New York State’s Multiple Dwelling Law and New York City’s Administrative Code.

During an inspection on May 10, City officials found that 99 units were being offered for short-term, transient rentals in violation of a March court ruling clarifying that the rentals are against the law. Leading up to the inspection, the Office of Special Enforcement received 33 complaints via 311 about Imperial Court, suggesting that illegal rentals in the building had not ceased, and that the rentals were eroding the quality of life and general sense of safety among permanent residents.

“Imperial Court is one of the most egregious illegal hotel operators in New York City,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “When building managers break the law – putting people in danger and destabilizing neighborhoods – the Office of Special Enforcement uses all tools necessary to shut them down.” 
“Returning the 99 illegally rented apartments to permanent use would provide much-need housing for dozens of New Yorkers while also creating a safer environment and a better quality of life for the current tenants,” said Christian Klossner, Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement.

During a meeting organized by Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal, residents and others complained of excessive noise, a lobby full of tourists with suitcases, and inadequate fire protection to handle the transient use. The Office of Special Enforcement was also informed that tenant complaints were often un-remedied, with management instead prioritizing checking in hotel guests. 

“Mr. Edelstein, owner of the Imperial Court in my district, has and continues to be one of the most notorious illegal hotel operators in the City, who has continuously and brazenly violated that laws against illegal hotels to the detriment of his tenants,” said Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal. “After working closely with permanent residents to address the disturbances caused by the illegal hotel guests, I am pleased that the Office of Special Enforcement has taken aggressive action to put a stop to it. These 99 units must be returned to affordability immediately, and I am already working with relevant state agencies to ensure that they are.”

Council Member Helen Rosenthal’s office has been working with the tenants of Imperial Court for years in their efforts to bring the illegal operations to a halt. 

"This is a huge win for the residents of Imperial Court. Tourists should not have free reign in their lobby or to roam the floors of their building; nor should residents have to live next door to a revolving door of suitcases," said Council Member Helen Rosenthal. "The Office of Special Enforcement's decision to levy significant violations sends a loud message to landlords who break the law – no longer will violations be the cost of doing business."

These complaints legitimize the City’s concerns about illegal hotel operations. When even one apartment is used as a hotel room, it impacts everyone in the building. Sensitive information such as front door keys or key codes are made available to non-resident strangers; the needs of permanent tenants go ignored as landlords tend to the constant flow of transient guests; and permanent residents are made to endure elevated noise and traffic levels throughout the day and night. Furthermore, these illegal operations exacerbate the City’s shortage of affordable long-term housing. 

“I was frustrated to learn that even after an appellate court reaffirmed the clear meaning of the law, the Imperial Court’s owners continued to illegally rent out residential apartment units to transient visitors,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “I’m pleased that the Office of Special Enforcement has taken further action against this scofflaw landlord and is protecting both residential tenants and visitors to our city by enforcing the law. I thank Executive Director Klossner and his staff for their diligent work.”

“I am very pleased with this aggressive action from the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement. Illegal hotels threaten the security and wellbeing of everyday New Yorkers in their own homes, and exacerbate our affordable housing crisis,” said State Senator Liz Krueger. “The Imperial Court has a long history of flouting the law, and this action sends a clear message that illegal hotels of any kind will not be tolerated in New York City. I thank Mayor de Blasio and his team for their work on this critical issue."

The Office of Special Enforcement has jurisdiction to coordinate and enhance City agency enforcement concerning quality of life problems throughout the five boroughs. Most of the complaints that the Office of Special Enforcement responds to – predominantly from 311 – concern short-term transient rentals. In FY 2016 alone, OSE has conducted 1,128 inspections in response to “illegal hotel” complaints and issued approximately 1,240 violations. If an operator or owner of a short-term transient rental operation fails to comply with violation orders to end illegal transient use, OSE will consider bringing affirmative litigation against the offending parties. 

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