By Mark Hallum
An Airbnb listing in Broadway-Flushing had state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and residents up in arms over zoning violations at a July 1 news conference. Now Avella has issued a letter to the city Department of Buildings demanding that the agency enforce the law requiring single-family dwellings and non-commercial use within the neighborhood.
The house, located at 35-32 159th St., is listed on Airbnb advertising six rooms, with the entire house accommodating up to 13 people. There is also an illegal renter in one of the upstairs bedrooms and the listing encourages group parties and events, according to Avella. The owner has been reluctant to comply with the R1-2A zoning and has not responded to complaints from the community.
“This listing needs to be removed immediately,for blatant disrespect of a community that has taken many actions to ensure their neighborhood remains a quiet, one-family residential place to live and raise a family,” Avella said in the letter.
Maria Becce, vice president of the Broadway Flushing Homeowners’ Association, addressed the small crowd which gathered at the July 1 news conference in front of the house where the controversial listing operates.
“The Broadway Flushing Homeowners’ Association will remain vigilant and we will make sure the city protects our zoning. We will go to court and use our own funds to enforce the covenant, and please remove the listing from Airbnb,” said Becce.
Becce said guests at the house listed, which Avella calls an “illegal hotel,” have overburdened the street with parked vehicles and strangers who come and go, as well as violating the Rickert-Finlay Covenant, which prohibits business, manufacturing or commercial use of property within the neighborhood.
“The Department of Buildings is the most incompetent and corrupt agency in the history of this city. They take in more money than they spend to operate. They generate revenue for the city of New York. All they would have to do is take some of that money and hire more inspectors,” Avella said at the news conference, explaining that the issues within the DOB are not only financial but systemic. “One of the main responsibilities of the DOB is to help maintain the existing housing stock. The other responsibility, which is a huge conflict of interest, is to promote development.”
The listing was once taken down by Airbnb, but was up and running again a week prior to the news conference, illustrating the lack of oversight on behalf of the website, Avella said.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall