Coney Island residents struggling to make ends meet might soon have to think twice before renting out that spare room on Airbnb to tourists wanting that first-hand America’s playground experience.
That after Ethan Lustig-Elgrably, the Democratic candidate for the State Assembly 46th district representing Coney Island, and parts of Brighton Beach, Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, came out strongly against the shared housing economy. Airbnb is a leading company in this sector and serves as brokers for individual renters, co-op, condo and home owners to sublet their spare rooms for short stays.
“Airbnb is harming our city’s economy and working families, and our elected leaders must do more to hold them accountable,” said Lustig-Elgrably, adding he strongly opposes the shared housing economy.
Lustig-Elgrably’s views on the issue comes after he received the endorsement of the New York Hotel Trades Council this week. The well-monied union is in a death match war with the equally well-monied Airbnb over the millions of tourism dollars the city gets in short stay rentals.
Both have been putting money behind elected’s campaign war chests with the unions arguing that the shared housing economy takes away much-needed affordable housing.
Shared housing economy advocates, on the other hand, say the industry helps residents struggling to keep up with the high cost of living in the city, and additionally pumps much-needed tourism dollars in local neighborhood shops and restaurants.
Coney Island, known as America’s playground, is a large city tourist draw, but has little in the way of hotel accommodations. Additionally, neighboring Brighton Beach, with its vibrant Russian culture and nightclubs, is a tourism draw.
While there have been plans on and off in the works for years to redevelop the area to include more hotel space it appears – much like the planned ferry route from Coney Island to Manhattan – to have hit bureaucratic and financial sandbars. According to a Google search there is only one hotel in the area – the Sleep Inn Coney Island, 2586 Stillwell Avenue, located just over the Gravesend border of Coney Island.
According to a Airbnb report published in February 2018, the company is particularly popular in Brooklyn with 21,387 current listings for either apartments or a private room or shared spaced in the borough alone. All of New York City has 53,740 listings.
Airbnb found that 30 percent of hosts use the money they earn to help them avoid eviction or foreclosure.
Airbnb spokesperson Liz DeBold Fusco said that in 2016 there were 126 hosts in the 46th Assembly District that had 3,480 guests stay in them. This was an increase from 98 hosts and 2,505 guests in 2015, she said.
Jason Ortiz, Political Director of the New York Hotel Trades Council, said the council is endorsing Lustig-Elgraby because of his commitment to the community and helping people from all walks of life.
“The Hotel Trades Council is proud to stand with Ethan Lustig-Elgrably as he runs for State Assembly. Through his years working in the community, Ethan has been an advocate for working families and helped bring much-needed resources to our neighborhoods,” Ortiz said.
Lustig-Elgrably was happy to accept the endorsement from an organization in which he believes works to combat policies that are unfair to the working class.
“I am excited to have the support of the Hotel Trades Council. Our working families are under attack from the Trump Administration, and it is up to our leaders in Albany to be the first line of defense against unfair policies that hurt our schools, infrastructure, and climate. When elected to the Assembly, I will work hard to support our working families and fight for all those who call Southern Brooklyn home,” Lustig-Elgrably said.
The union endorsement comes as Assemblyman Joseph Lentol (D-Williamsburg, Greenpoint) introduced ‘One Host, One Home’ legislation, which restricts hosts to just one list and would limit bad actors that have multiple listings. The measure, which has the support of Airbnb, would also include funding for enforcement agencies.
“I am strongly opposed to Assemblymember Lentol’s bill which was drafted by Airbnb and does not outline enforcement mechanisms,” he said.
Instead, Lustig-Elgrably thinks the focus should be on a different assembly bill.
“I am in favor of Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal’s (D-Manhattan) bill, A10090, which would help crack down on illegal operators who are driving up rents and removing much-needed residential housing from the market,” he said.
The Rosenthal bill, which has the support of the hotel union, provides no enforcement funding, but requires hosts to give their forced consent to have their personal information turned over to law enforcement.
The Lustig-Elgrably campaign said the candidate has not received a monetary contribution from the union to his campaign. Lustig-Elgrably, who just announced he was running last week, is not yet listed as setting up a campaign account with the state Board of Elections.