Today’s Moment Of Greenpoint Real Estate Insanity: Special 239 Banker Street Edition

May 22, 2013 ·
Filed under: 11222, Greenpoint, Greenpoint Brooklyn, Greenpoint Magic, Wow, WTF 

239banker5222013You can probably imagine, gentle readers, the recent decision regarding a fellow renting out his apartment (condominium, actually) via Airbnb was of great interest to yours truly. Not that I had to search for it, mind you. Yesterday I awakened in yet another morning episode of allergy hell to find reporting on the subject on my Facebook page and inbox. It’s nice to know people care.

And on that note I am going to pass the love forward to my friends at 239 Banker Street. Today I had a thought while walking by this edifice/poster child for Loft Law abuse. It was as follows:

Gee, wouldn’t it be funny if this building— which was converted from industrial/commercial use to housing illegally— under the pretext of being permissible as a hotel— had a listing on AirBnb (now that it has been established that AirBnb is illegal in our fair city)?

Well, grab hold of your Shit Tits fellow Garden Spotters— it does! What’s more, it is was very easy to discern. Before I proceed, I’d like share to take a moment to share Airbnb’s “response” to the recent court decision (once again, from Gawker):

This decision runs contrary to the stated intention and the plain text of New York law, so obviously we are disappointed. But more importantly, this decision makes it even more critical that New York law be clarified to make sure regular New Yorkers can occasionally rent out their own homes. There is universal agreement that occasional hosts like Nigel Warren were not the target of the 2010 law, but that agreement provides little comfort to the handful of people, like Nigel, who find themselves targeted by overzealous enforcement officials. It is time to fix this law and protect hosts who occasionally rent out their own homes. 87 percent of Airbnb hosts in New York list just a home they live in — they are average New Yorkers trying to make ends meet, not illegal hotels that should be subject to the 2010 law.

Well, given what I have learned recently, we have an exceptional lot of New Yorkers in Greenpoint. Sure, they’re trying to make ends “meet”— but are they home owners? No they are not. Meet “Joseph”. One of the 13%.

airbnbSC5222013NYS

room1

This “average” New Yorker is not only a fashion/celebrity photographer, but he has a rather snazzy profile photo and by all appearances resides at 239 Banker Street.

AirbnblistingversusgooglemapsHILITEDNYS

The “giveaway”? Well for starters the buildings gracing “Joseph’s” (AirBnb certified) “rooftop view”: Pop’s Clothing and House of Vans respectively. Here’s an alternate view from 7 Franklin Street (“Pop’s”) courtesy of Google Maps:

7franklinstreetGooglemaplookingeasthilitedNYS

I have highlighted 239 Banker Street. But wait, there’s more! “Joseph” has done all the homework for me— albeit unintentionally— via a second listing on AirBnb!

BUSTED

Busted!

To recap:

  1. The owners of 239 Banker Street were granted permits to convert this manufacturing/commercial building into a hotel. This is perfectly legal given it is located in an Industrial Business Zone.
  2. Instead, the owners converted it into residences and leased it as such. For $2,100- $2,200 a month.
  3. 239 Banker Street was vacated by the Department of Buildings for conditions hazardous to said residents.
  4. Under new “ownership” 239 Banker is rented out once again as residential lofts. This time for substantially more money.
  5. I raise hell.
  6. I receive an email from my City Councilman regarding the matter. I blog it.
  7. A Loft Law application, however inapplicable it may be presently, is filed.
  8. And now we have a legally-sanctioned hotel converted illegally into residences which, in turn, one resident is illegally employing his apartment as a hotel via AirBnb. Ostensibly to “make ends meet”.

Wouldn’t it have simply been better/easier if this property was a hotel in the first place?

Priceless

(Priceless)

Today In Real Estate Insanity: How To Live In Greenpoint For Under $1,000/Month

apartmentwanted

umnothanksYours truly has developed quite a fixation on AirBnb lately. This is not simply due to the lawsuit unfolding either. Rather, the Mister and I had the pleasure of having a trio of miscreants walk into our apartment at 9:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning. The leader of this group announced that they were here from AirBnb and tried to hand his luggage to the Mister (who was still in his pajamas). The landlord (who had no knowledge this was going on) was called. I searched AirBnb for the listing, found it, took screengrabs and sent them to landlord. Let’s just say this did not go over well.

In any case, parsing through ~450 listings for Greenpoint (and being awakened by one’s husband rolling out more f-bombs in 2 minutes than I have ever heard him utter— much less yell— in 10+ years will motivate one to do this kind of thing) made me aware that this is a pervasive practice. I am surprised? No, not really. Still, it is wretchedly comical on occasion— especially when compared to the solicitation which graces the beginning of this post. CASE IN POINT:

fiftydollarsanight

But wait folks— there’s more…

COZY!

Much more— like what the fuck is up with the slide?

slide

No worries, the “host” of these digs gives full disclosure:

Hello Traveler,

I’m an Artist living in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I share my 3 bedroom Classic Artist’s Loft with travelers from Airbnb. I am respectful, kind and accommodating. I am seeking the same out of you! This is a fairly large apartment, it’s spacious feeling even when everyone is home. I have been very lucky and met amazing people through this service. Much of my furniture was custom made by the artist Jean-Marie Mauclet of JEMA Design and all my lighting is eco-friendly LED’s.

You are welcome to stay in my guest loft. This is a great short-term space for the budget traveler that does not require much privacy. If this space is booked, you are looking for a longer stay or need more privacy check out my “Private Room in Classic Loft” or “Brite Room in Classic Artist’s Loft.” Both are just as cool, better for long stays and have more privacy! The “Cozy Loft” is built above the door in the main living area. When at home, I tend to hang out in my bedroom on my computer or on the roof when the weather is nice. The weekends can be a bit livelier, but not by much! I will provide clean sheets for your double-bed and warm blankets if needed. I also have plenty of storage space if you should need it. Under the loft I have a wardrobe just for your use with plenty of drawers and a place to lock up your computer or other small valuables if you are concerned. The loft is relatively private, comfortable and clean. However, it is not great for couples seeking a romantic vacation or anyone who needs absolute silence to sleep. It has the unusual entrance and exit of an industrial slide. It is not particularly challenging to use, but can be a problem If you are a bit tipsy from going on a pub crawl in the neighborhood, uncoordinated or tired.

My Artist’s Loft is located on the top floor on a quiet street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. This is a very safe and friendly part of Brooklyn to visit. I have a manually operated freight elevator that is off limits (* Ed. note) but can be used to transport heavy items if you require. I have fantastic roof access with beautiful views of the New York Skyline. Bring your lap top computer and connect to my WiFi. If you sit in the right space you can enjoy the WiFi in the open air on the roof.

The Franklin Ave (Street — Ed. Note) shops, restaurants and bars are just around the corner. The closest Subway station is the Greenpoint Ave G, also in walking distance is the Bedford Ave L and the Vernon Blvd 7. By subway, I am located 25 minutes from Union Square, 26 minutes from Times Square, 30 minutes from Central Park, 38 minutes from Tribeca and 25 minutes from the East Village. The B61 and B43 bus stop is only a block away and very helpful when weather is uncomfortable. JFK is one hour away by public transport and LGA is 25 minutes away by Cab. Get Ready for your “morning slide!”  I look forward to meeting you. – (excised)

cosynest

So what do members of AirBnb’s “community” have to say? See for yourself. Reading is believing!

reviews

By all appearances —and until recently yours truly lived on the block in question for ten years— these cozy accommodations appear to hail from 125 Green Street. What’s more, Google backs me up!

aurbnbverfiedvagooglemaps

The funny thing is NAG (formerly Neighbors Allied Against Garbage, now Neighbors Allied For Good Growth) tried to organize this building. Under the pretext that such industrial spaces cum artists space preserved the “artistic integrity” of the community.

Confused About The Loft Law?

One year later, there is neither a Loft Law application— nor Certificate of Occupancy for this property for that matter. But it has a cozy loft available for $975.00 a month. 

airbnbsc

Slide on!

P.S.: The front door of this artists’ abode has Freddy Mercury on it.

freddymercury

Awesome. Totally awesome.

Quicklink: How To Beat The High Cost Of Living In North Brooklyn?

I— as I imagine you, gentle readers— have often asked this very question. Thankfully we have Brooklyn Based to tell us how to make our apartments work while we play: rent it out to total strangers as a vacation rental! Preferably via Airbnb (which gets not one, not two, but three plugs in Brooklyn Based’s tome).

Yours trulys favorite passages are as follows:

“Once it’s up and running, it’s easy money,” says Julian, who first joined the Airbnb community in February 2010 (and asked that his last name not be used). The income from managing several listings around Brooklyn, all of which are already booked for the summer, covers the rent on a two-bedroom Williamsburg apartment, and has helped fund his dream: restaurant-ownership. This summer he’s opening Dear Bushwick on Wilson Avenue. (So much for anonymity; the State Liquor Authority’s web site took care of that.— Ed. Note)

It’s important to know that in May 2011, a New York state law went into effect to ban short-term residential rentals for less than 30 days, to help crack down on “illegal hotels.” While the law was designed to target apartment owners who were using residential buildings as hotels, it has created somewhat of grey area when it comes to Airbnb… 

“You have to be smart,” says Julian. He now rents and maintains four separate apartments throughout Brooklyn, three of which he uses exclusively to host Airbnb travelers. “I tell guests to keep their heads down and not make too much noise. You want to avoid 311 complaints—if you get a handful you might have a problem. But at this point the city can’t do much about it—they would have to set up a whole new department for dealing with this kind of stuff.” (So basically “Julian” concedes that what he is doing is illegal, but persists because there is a lack of enforcement. Interesting. — Ed. Note.)

It’s true that law enforcement currently only responds to complaints; assuming landlords or neighbors aren’t annoyed or bothered by what you do with your apartment. In this City Room post, Senator Liz Krueger, one of the sponsors of the bill* that makes short-term sublets illegal, says that “The city is not going to knock on doors.”

So, get permission or tread lightly. Julian relayed the story of a friend who wasn’t allowed to renew her lease after her management company found out she was subleasing her apartment through Airbnb without their approval. “You probably don’t want to rent your apartment in an area where people have been living for years,” he says. “It’s better when people are coming and going—so neighborhoods like Bushwick or the NYU area make it easier to keep a low profile.”

And last— but hardly least— my personal favorite:

“Go the extra step,” Julian says. “Leave a six-pack of beer in the fridge for guests. It doesn’t cost much, but it makes people happy.”

I can personally attest to the joy-giving properties of beer— but are the consumers Julian’s suds of legal age? He doesn’t indicate. I hope State Liquor Authority is paying attention to this.

In closing: Isn’t it refreshing to know “Julian” is able to afford to afford a two bedroom apartment in Williamsburg and open a bar in Bushwick because he is pressing residential space which could— at least theoretically— house families (or other “eyes on the street”) into service as a transient hotel? Or that Brooklyn Based saw fit to be an enabler for a phenomenon which, while in a “gray area” from a legal standpoint, indisputably undermines the quality of life and safety of those who have the misfortune of calling these “entrepreneurs” neighbors? And all in the name of “easy money”? The word “disgusting” does not even begin to cover how I feel about this.

Those of you who care to do so can read Brooklyn Based’s tome in its entirety by clicking here. Otherwise any of you who have had experiences with a neighbor (or tenant) leasing his/her apartment as a vacation rental please share your thoughts via comments or email at: missheather (at) thatgreenpointblog (dot) com.

Your identity will remain anonymous if you so desire. Thanks!

*Here’s another sponsor of said bill: Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried, 75th Assembly District. How do I know this? Very simple: someone from his office contacted me— two years ago.

P.S.: While I am vaguely on the subject of tourists and tourism, my comrade in the East Village, Jeremiah Moss, has authored an excellent piece. Here’s a passage I found particularly interesting:

As Fran Lebowitz said in an interview, “Present-day New York has been made to attract people who didn’t like New York. That’s how we get a zillion tourists here, especially American tourists, who never liked New York. Now they like New York. What does that mean? Does that mean they’ve suddenly become much more sophisticated? No. It means that New York has become more like the places they come from.”

Please take a moment to give it a read.

  • NYS Flickr Pool

    Skateboard BuddiesAvenue of the BravestConey IslandAstoria Street ArtEast River
  • Ads