A delegation of thirty-six pro-Airbnb activists dropped by the office of New York State Senator Liz Krueger (D) this afternoon to deliver a petition with over 230,000 signatures asking that she help make it explicitly legal for New Yorkers to rent out their spare rooms through the popular short-term rental site. The group then broke off into groups and met with Krueger Chief of Staff Brad Usher, who displayed some “defensiveness,” according to one participant, but said that the senator would be open to “looking at the law."
Sen. Krueger sponsored a 2010 bill to make it illegal for landlords to rent their apartments through sites like Airbnb. The city's administrative code allows individuals to rent rooms in their apartments on a short-term basis, but only if they're at home at the same time as their guests. The law is also ambiguous on several points, including whether Airbnb hosts are responsible for collecting hotel taxes—an issue that became a cause for alarm when New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued a subpoena in October, requiring Airbnb to hand over a detailed list of all its hosts statewide, their bookings, and how much money they’ve earned.
Krueger press officer Andrew Goldston says the senator “is always open to having discussions about improving the law." But recently Krueger took a hard line against Airbnb, stating that the company is putting New Yorkers “in the line of fire by recruiting them to feed its business model and participate in what is essentially a black market.” While “some may call that ‘paradigm-breaking’ or ‘disruptive’,” Krueger said, “ultimately, it’s just irresponsible and greedy.”
The petition drive is part of a week of activism aimed at liberalizing the laws governing short-term rentals in New York City, which is spearheaded by Peers, a self-described “member-driven organization that supports the sharing economy movement.” The group recently played a pivotal role in defeating a bill in Grand Rapids, Michigan that would have made it a misdemeanor for residents to advertise on Airbnb.