Queens Senator John Liu and Assemblyman Ed Braunstein were among the handful of people to speak during a rally on March 25, joining members of the Bayside community in venting their frustration regarding squatters who have been illegally occupying and renting out a home on Airbnb for two years.
Other speakers included Congresswoman Grace Meng (via a phone call from Albany), Community Board 11 District Manager Joe Marziliano, Roseann Foley Henry of the Bell Court Civic Association and Stephen Markowski, one of the more vocal voices in the neighborhood.
While they’ve all been trying to get the squatters evicted from the property — located at 208-16 38th Ave. — for two years, there is now a heightened sense of urgency following an incident last weekend near the property in which a group of transient residents allegedly fired at least 19 gunshots around the neighborhood, injuring one and damaging a lot of nearby property.
“We’re calling upon the Department of Buildings to issue a vacate order,” Liu said.
Additionally, Liu called upon Airbnb to stop advertising the house on their site. There have been repeated instances of Airbnb taking down the posting, only to allow the same home being advertised under a different account.
Braunstein called upon the bank to expedite foreclosure and eviction proceedings on the property. He also called out Airbnb for allowing the house to be advertised.
“While authorities continue their investigation to apprehend the individuals responsible for the shooting, Airbnb must permanently ban listings at this location,” Braunstein said. “We are not going to rest until this situation is resolved.”
.@Airbnb must permanently ban listings at this location. As we plan next courses of action, I will continue close collaboration with fellow elected officials, the Mayor’s Office, @NYPD111Pct, City agencies and local residents. 5/6
— Ed Braunstein (@edbraunstein) March 25, 2022
Braunstein also revealed that he reached out to ConEd to see if they can do anything about the property, such as possibly disabling the electricity. While he is waiting to hear back from them, some in the neighborhood believe the squatters may already be prepared for it. The squatters have been seen bringing large jugs of gasoline to the home, leading many to believe they are using a generator for electricity.
Meng reached out to Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky asking for insight following the shooting.
In a letter to Chesky, Meng asked what the company intends to do to rectify the fact that the house was able to get posted on Airbnb by illegal squatters who just had to change the name of the accounts. She also asked why the property itself hasn’t been banned from being listed on the site.
“Neighborhood residents must not have their safety put at risk and their quality of life disrupted,” Meng wrote. “This problem must be addressed at once, and my colleagues and I stand shoulder to shoulder with the community as we push Airbnb for answers.”
Marziliano discussed how the property itself has caused problems since the old homeowner left.
“For five years, this problematic property has plagued our neighbors, first as a zombie home, then as an alleged squatter’s den, and now as an illegal Airbnb with a shooting spilling over into the streets,” Marziliano said.
Liu provided some details into some of the roadblocks that have prevented the squatters from being evicted sooner. The bank had undergone foreclosure proceedings, but they botched the paperwork.
Joe Carollo, the former owner of the property, spoke during the rally and said that he had relinquished his rights to the house over to Citi Bank. Since he was no longer the landlord of the property, Carollo was unable to approve eviction proceedings.
The squatters were previously Carollo’s tenants. When Carollo left, they allegedly stopped paying rent. Now, the squatters barely stay at the house, choosing instead to rent it out via Airbnb, making money on a property they don’t even own.
Shortly before Friday’s rally, the Department of Buildings (DOB) attempted to perform an interior inspection of the home, as any violation would grant them the power to kick the squatters out. However, since the DOB didn’t haven’t a warrant to search the premises, the squatters were able to refuse them entry.