New York’s Petty War on Airbnb: Jim Epstein in The Daily Beast

I have a piece up at The Daily Beast looking at the reprecussions of New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's recent subpoena requiring that Airbnb, the wildly popular short-term rental site, hand over a spreadsheet listing all its hosts statewide, their addresses, the dates and durations of their bookings, and the revenue these bookings have generated.

Here's how it opens:

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, newcomers to New York City found an abundance of spare bedrooms, living room couches, and kitchen cots available for rent. "Boarding out," as it was once called, also provided a vital income stream for poor families in possession of spare rooms, couches, and cots. By 1912, according to one survey, nearly half of Gotham's black households had boarders, many of them migrants from the South. An even higher percentage of Russian Jewish households had boarders; my great-grandparents routinely put up men and women fresh off the boat for short-term stays in their Lower East Side tenement.

“Huddled masses yearning to breathe free” isn't the first phrase that comes to mind when describing tourists in 21st century New York City booking stays through Airbnb, the wildly popular website connecting residents wanting to pick up some extra cash with out-of-towners looking for cheap alternatives to a traditional hotel. Although the terms and conditions have changed, the commercial impulse is much the same. Take a twenty-something couple named Lauren and Rob, who asked that I not reveal their last names because of the legal issues surrounding Airbnb. They moved to the Big Apple to make it in showbiz. Struggling to make ends meet, they now cover about half the cost of their $2,250-a-month Manhattan apartment by renting out their living room couch for $65 a night.

Read the whole thing.

Back in August, Naomi Brockwell and I looked at Airbnb and its enemies for Reason TV:

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  • Sevo||

    "Zimmer frei". Not in NY.

  • pan fried wylie||

    Paying $65 a night to sleep on a sleazy unregulated couch.

    These people clearly don't appreciate the true spirit of New York, New York.

  • sarcasmic||

    Anarchy! People making money without first asking permission and then obeying orders from authority! How can a customer be sure that they're getting what others feel is good for them if the person they're purchasing goods and services from hasn't properly asked permission from authority and then conducted business in accordance with orders from authority? Chaos! It's the end of the world!!!

  • Paul.||

    Needs moar authority.

  • Rhywun||

    they will soon have to pay New York hotel taxes every night they have a guest

    Yeah, I figured it was all about the bosses getting their cut.

  • pan fried wylie||

    Also, News Flash: you don't move into the $2k/mo apartment in Manhattan until you've actually made it.

    And you don't try-to-make-it while trying to raise a child either.

    "We're totally irresponsible, but we thought that the laws in The Big Apple were supportive of our poor life choices!"

  • Sevo||

    "Mid-Market artists facing eviction"
    ""Culture and art are part of San Francisco's draw," Bracero said as she showed off vividly hued dresses and T-shirts she created in the 300-square-foot space that costs her $835 a month."
    http://www.sfgate.com/realesta.....889314.php

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    Per the usual, government is the problem but the brain-dead blame "corporatism":

    Their landlord, though, said the city compelled him to send the 60-day "demolition eviction" notices last month because about half of the units, in the building's interior, lack windows.

    ...

    Gall said he's spent tens of thousands of dollars on legal and administrative fees trying to bring 1049 Market into compliance, "but hit a brick wall" with the city. A stack of e-mails documenting his three-year quest includes an August notice from the Department of Building Inspection threatening revocation of the building's occupancy permit, code-enforcement actions and penalties; his lawyers told him he had no choice but to start evictions.

    But the residents, who've witnessed how Twitter's 2012 arrival a couple of blocks away kicked off the area's resurgence, think it's a bid to generate more profits by turning the spaces into offices.
  • Sevo||

    NK,
    The entire mess is complicated by SF's 'rent control'; supply has plummeted by prolly 50%, rents (vacancies are not controlled) have jumped easily 50% over the last five years.
    And then we simply can't allow people to live in cheap units! Why, the lefties are outraged that 'artists' don't have hardwood floors and S/S appliances!

  • Paul.||

    According to "anarchist" Chomsky, these regulations and government departments are the last bulwark against Corporatism.

  • Sevo||

    I'm regularly amazed at those who claim to favor 'anarchy', which 'anarchy' seems to require more government than that suffered by those who lived in the USSR.

  • JeremyR||

    That's what corporatism is.

    Government run regulatory agencies that are full of cronies of the bigger businesses that the agencies regulate.

    The corporations use the regulators to squash any competition.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Yep. The article specifically notes "San Francisco requires living spaces to have natural light" yet the problems is shown as

    "But the residents, who've witnessed how Twitter's 2012 arrival a couple of blocks away kicked off the area's resurgence, think it's a bid to generate more profits by turning the spaces into offices.

    "I knew sooner or later we'd be getting a knock on the door," said Marty Castleberg, an author who said the neighborhood "infuses my writing with a colorful grit."

    "San Francisco influences me to do better as an artist, but I feel like corporate expansion is making us invisible," said Antoni, 40, who's lived in the building for 16 years - "most of my adult life."

    Open your fucking eyes, bitch. San Francisco might "influence you to do better as an artist", but it has also influenced your critical thinking and logic skills to fucking disappear.

  • Sevo||

    mlg,
    It doesn't matter. The cops could beat that stupid bitch over the head with a night-stick, and she'd claim it was the night-stick mfgr.
    SF hipsters (and voters) are just that stupid.
    Hell, it's worse than that; look at the folks blaming the rethuglicans for the park closures.

  • ||

    My thoughts exactly. Not that I'm against renting one's "own" private space out, but this couple looks like the type that's going to pawn all their belongings for lottery tickets in a decade.

  • Hillary's Clitdong||

    It doesn't help that the Big Apple neurotically micromanages their property and prevents them from doing things to make money.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    you don't move into the $2k/mo apartment in Manhattan until you've actually made it.

    While I would agree, I should point out that $2250 for an apt in Manhattan is pretty cheap. Also, it's much better for them to rent their couch than to hold out their hand for subsidies or welfare.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Chicago burned to the ground because without a permit Old Lady O'Leary rented a room to two guys in a cow costume. True story.

  • Sevo||

    For a story like that, Chi-town is a cheap price to pay.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

  • Generic Stranger||

    Can't be a History Channel reenactment; there aren't any aliens or ghosts.

  • Winston||

    Also thanks to anarchist teahadist Republicans Chicago had no building codes or firefighters. Look what the Shutdown has done!

  • Ken Shultz||

    "Boarding out," as it was once called, also provided a vital income stream for poor families in possession of spare rooms, couches, and cots."

    It was pretty standard practice for middle class people, too. When you got too old to work, you looked for passive income--like buying an apartment building and renting out units.

    That's why Lucy and Ricky were renting from Fred and Ethel.

    I bet Fred and Ethel kicked the Ricardos out and moved to Connecticut once rent control came along.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    I bet Fred and Ethel kicked the Ricardos out and moved to Connecticut once rent control came along.

    I seem to remember that the last season of I Love Lucy was in the suburbs.

  • General Butt Naked||

    OT:

    So, I was perusing the usual proggie sites a few minutes ago (kos, huffpo, TPM, etc) looking for some aneurysm inducing stupidity to link to, but the pickin's are a bit slim. They are so butthurt over the shutdown that they can't focus on anything else.

    I can't imagine my personal worth being so wrapped up in the state's existence. I mean, Christ, this isn't even close to a real government shutdown and they're in total meltdown mode right now.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I'm sorry, but I consider anyone who gives them page views worse than Hitler.

  • My Dog Bites Better Than Yours||

    Now that Balko moved in HuffPo, I'm in genuine quandry.

  • Paul.||

    A doctor sent in a ticket whining that Huffpo was 'blocked'.

    Unfortunately, it wasn't so his inability to get to it was something retard-related. Either way, I made sure to write in the ticket that if I had my druthers, huffpo would be blocked, but unfortunately it was wide open.

    The internet is hard.

  • Archduke von Pantsfan||

    huffpo isn't even the worst place on the internet.
    rabble.ca is the worst place on the internet.

  • Irish||

    Yeah, but it's hilarious watching Canadian progs fail miserably to apply logic and come to the rational conclusion.

    Due to the growth of bureaucratic elites and the subsequent institutionalization of these elites, organizations of the left often have their ideals subverted from within. This results in the all-too-familiar reality of leftist parties, unions or organizations developing de facto leadership cults, discarding meaningful internal democracy (and any organization in which the rank-and-file members are not a constant threat to those in power, and are not able to easily replace them, is neither democratic nor truly committed to ideals of equality or leftism), and failing to live up to the ideals that they foresee socially in theory but seem to be afraid of or eschew when applied within.

    So left-wing organizations always fail to apply their own principles to themselves. You would think this would make a progressive sit back, think for a moment, and realize that no progressive system could ever work because people would lie about their principles, gain power, and use that power to enrich themselves.

    But this moment never comes.

  • PapayaSF||

    "The patient grows weaker! There must be more bad blood than I thought! Bring me more leeches!"

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    OT: Nuclear Regulatory Commission To Furlough Employees Due To Government Shutdown

    Apparently nuclear utilities don't care what so ever about any safety issues, they are KORPORATIONZZZ and all that. At least the commentators have a bit of intelligence:

    Of course. The assumption in the story is that, without these dedicated federal inspectors, the operators of the nuclear power plants would purposely blow up mankind. No one has good intentions and sound work ethics, except for federal employees.

  • Irish||

    The assumption in the story is that, without these dedicated federal inspectors, the operators of the nuclear power plants would purposely blow up mankind. No one has good intentions and sound work ethics, except for federal employees.

    This is a pretty good point about the stupidity of left-wing ideas about regulation. If all of these food companies would just dump chemicals in their food were it not for our tireless regulators, then why can we assume that those regulators won't also do a terrible job and fail to stop the food companies from doing so?

    It really is founded on the idea that a person undergoes a magical transformation the instant they start receiving a government check.

  • ||

    I'm involved in a Facebook argument about this exact point. An acquaintance posted that story about how breweries can't get new beers approved because of the shutdown. I questioned whether the government needs to be involved in approving beer recipes at all, and 3 different liberals explicitly said that Budweiser would sell poisoned beer if the government didn't stop them. I was kind of taken aback, because I didn't think anyone I knew actually believed that.

  • Killazontherun||

    Don't let them get you down. Their stupidity is an opportunity to exploit for your gain.

  • General Butt Naked||

    This relates to what I said directly above. All the stories are scare stories of the shutdown and how WEEZ ALL GONNA DIE!!.

    How about some idiocy from the comments:

    Honestly, Osama Bin Ladin couldn't have been more effective than the Tea Party GOPers at destroying America. So when are these "legislators" going to be tried for treason?

    When did the proggies get so ra ra patriotic and bloodthirsty?

    Those that hate the NRC, FAA, NTSB, EPA, FDA etc. should move to Somalia. They're not encumbered but such regressive agencies.

    That's cute.

  • Sevo||

    Hey, you don't give the Bringer of Light what he wants, it must be TREASON!

  • Winston||

    When did the proggies get so ra ra patriotic and bloodthirsty?

    Once they got in charge? See Lenin, Chavez, Castro, etc.

  • Irish||

    All this talk of the NRC seems to merit me posting this.

    It's the former NRC chairman talking about how nuclear energy is going to die out, while offering very little evidence for his claim. Here's the money quote:

    Jaczko spoke to IEEE Spectrum following his participation in an anti-nuclear event in New York City at which speakers discussed the lessons that could be learned from the Fukushima Daiichi accident.

    Our former NRC chairman is on the record as being opposed to nuclear energy. Why would you allow someone who is opposed to the very existence of a type of energy to run a regulatory commission for that energy source?

    Someone in the comments had this to say:

    Greg Jaczko is apparently continuing the profession that he was hired into when he began working for Ed Markey in 1999. He began his professional career as an antinuclear activist after being awarded a PhD in particle physics. His university course of study had nothing to do with nuclear energy production; his thesis described his research into the low energy behavior of baryons and mesons.

    So...our former head of a nuclear regulatory commission is a lifelong anti-nuclear advocate with no expertise in the field.. Well played, government.

  • Paul.||

    When did the proggies get so ra ra patriotic and bloodthirsty?

    When they won.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    Somalia has a government now. Propped up by Ethiopia and occasionally the US, but it is a govt.

  • Irish||

    They also had governments before, it's just that it wasn't a central government that controlled all of Somalia. If we use the definition that government is a monopoly on the use of force in a given area, then different sections of Somalia were controlled by various tribes and warlords which were essentially governmental entities.

    Those governmental entities just didn't wield control over the entire area within the random squiggly lines that Europeans drew on a map.

  • Sevo||

    "Those governmental entities just didn't wield control over the entire area within the random squiggly lines that Europeans drew on a map."

    True, but the problems were evident where the non-existent squiggly lines allowed two 'governments' to extract 'taxes' from the same population.

  • ||

    So, how long before other cities do this and AirBnB folds?

    I need to know because I'm going to need to do some traveling before it happens.

  • Paul.||

    Probably depends on how successful NY is in its attempt to shut these services down. If they're successful, other cities will follow.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    OK, so BBC is showing the "Wesley leaves the universe" TNG episode tonight, the one where Picard is trying to force a bunch of Indians to move to an interstellar reservation. My question is, how the hell are most humans still uniracial in the 24th century? I thought ST had no problem with miscegenation?

  • Killazontherun||

    Pair together two people with recessive genes, they'll spit out a recessive gene wielding baby. Hence the continued existence of redheads. Miscegenation has been the norm in Siberia and the Mediterranean cultures for most of written history. Don't be disappointed if you wake up from your cryonic tube three centuries from now and the ladies are not all Beyonce Knowles sashaying their deluxe haunches by you. There are quite a few flat assed Asian and White women in the world to keep that trend in check.

  • Paul.||

    Don't be disappointed if you wake up from your cryonic tube three centuries from now and the ladies are not all Beyonce Knowles sashaying their deluxe haunches by you.

    Fuck.

    *cancels cryo-tube reservation*

  • Ted S.||

    Because progtards like Roddenberry need(ed) minorities around to show how virtuously tolerant and morally superior they are.

  • Rhywun||

    I was kind of amused (having not watched this wretched episode since it first aired) that they and everyone else were still calling them "Indians".

  • Killazontherun||

    In that timeline, 'Indian' was indeed fazed out by the end of the 21st Century, with the preferred Canadian term, 'Indigenous Americans' replacing it. Over the next few centuries those two words 'Indigenous' and 'American' were shortened into 'Indian.'

  • Rhywun||

    *golf clap*

  • Killazontherun||

    Uhm, 'phazed' out. A 'fazor' in the Star Trek universe is a self defense weapon, the only one allowed for civilian use by the way, that flusters ones opponent.

  • Killazontherun||

    Wait, wait, I'm almost there, I haven't completely wrecked this yet. 'Phased out.'

  • AlmightyJB||

    That made me laugh

  • Paul.||

    Uhh, point of order. I live near that there Canadian border, and all I ever hear is "first nations".

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    Well, when Space Lincoln called Uhura "negress" she took no offense, as the people of the 23rd century had outgrown the need to be offended by mere words.

    It's also amusing that (1) Picard felt it necessary to explain to the human, American sounding admiral that in past centuries Indians had been displaced from their ancestral homelands on Earth, and that (2) Counselor Troi is able to recite details about obscure 1700s battles in the American West off the top of her head.

    But at least we got rid of Wesley. Though he did appear in the deleted scenes in Nemesis, with the Traveler apparently having booted him back into this plane of existence.

  • Paul.||

    this is not "petty war". This is serious business. State governments will not abide extra-regulatory transactions. Any attempt at freedom, and free transactions are to be immediately squashed by the state, lest more freedom break out uncontrollably.

  • Killazontherun||

    Protesters in 50 countries march against MONSANTO...

    http://rt.com/news/monsanto-ma.....otest-115/

    Probably the most dangerous movement of our time.

  • Sevo||

    I was particularly happy to see parents use their kids as props for their stupidity.
    As if the kids had any independent idea of what the issues were; pathetic.

  • JeremyR||

    They have the same spammers we do.

    Anyway, the hilarious thing is, Monsanto is a fairly small company. They were ranked #206 in this year, behind Toys R Us and just ahead of Starbucks

    Yet somehow they somehow run all the governments in the world.

  • GILMORE||

    Monsanto MUST be using these people in some way to improve their marketing... I mean, they at least spread the word of Who They Are and What They Do? All Press is Good Press?

    Even if I had no idea who/what Monsanto was, all it would take is to see the types of people self-righteously protesting against them, and i'd run out and find out how I could pay for their products and services.

  • Pinky||

    "Schneiderman's recent subpoena requiring that Airbnb...hand over a spreadsheet listing all its hosts statewide, their addresses, the dates and durations of their bookings, and the revenue these bookings have generated."

    This is very hardball. The attorney general is effectively threatening every one of Airbnb's clients with criminal tax evasion charges.

  • GILMORE||

    All I care about is the hawt redhead Australian. in NYC. @#()*$@# someone kill me now.

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