In a major ruling that could effect hundreds of apartments on the Upper West Side, a New York appeals court said that an SRO building on 79th street can’t rent rooms to tourists for less than 30 days.

The owner of the Imperial Court at 307 West 79th Street, a rent-stabilized Single Room Occupancy (SRO) building, argued that he should be able to rent the rooms on a weekly basis to tourists. While the city changed the law to make it harder to rent rooms on a short-term basis, owner Ron Edelstein said the Imperial should be grandfathered in. While he prevailed at the district court level, the appeals court said that the Imperial can only rent the rooms for 30 days or more. (Edelstein had once threatened to turn the site into a homeless shelter if he’s not allowed to use it as a hotel.)

SRO rooms were designed for low-income individuals willing to share a kitchen and bathroom in exchange for inexpensive rent. But it’s much more lucrative for landlords to rent out rooms to tourists — while SRO tenants often pay less than $1,000 a month, tourists will fork over more than $100 a day.

The ruling affects “a lot of families and others, including tourists and people living paycheck to paycheck, or people who are down on their luck and need a place to stay for a week or two,” the Imperial’s lawyer, Charles Chehebar, told The Post.

But local officials hailed the ruling as a victory for affordable housing.

“This is a victory for affordable housing and for New Yorkers who need an affordable place to live, and we look forward to seeing these units returned to the affordable housing stock,” said Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal. “It’s also a relief for the Imperial Court tenants who have had to live with tourists coming in and out of their building at all hours of the night.”

“If the court had ruled the other way,” said Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried, one of the authors of the 2010 law, “it would have crippled City law enforcement and allowed thousands of illegal hotel rooms to continue to operate.”

Assembly member Linda Rosenthal said she has been trying to raise the alarm about this problem for years — she even booked a two-night stay in the Imperial in 2007 to showcase the problem — and feels vindicated by the ruling.

We explained the issue of SROs being used as hotels in depth here.

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 22 comments | permalink
    1. Paul RL says:

      Yeah, go away you horrible tourists! How dare you want to stay in our neighborhood, take up room on our sidewalks, and (gasp!) inject money into our economy by supporting our local businesses!

    2. Ted says:

      The Imperial Court is a blight on 79th Street. The owner doesn’t exactly have the most sterling record as a landlord. His attempt to blackmail UWS residents by threatening to convert the property into a homeless is simply an attempt to extort the city into giving him permission to run an illegal hotel.

    3. Jay says:

      There are plenty of legal hotels in NYC.

      We don’t need tourists to take away places from the less fortunate can get their lives back together.

    4. Sherman says:

      I know this building. It’s old and grimy and decrepit. It’s an eyesore because the landlord has zero economic incentive to clean it up because if all the rent regulated SROs.

      If he turned it into a hotel of sorts he would be forced to clean it up. Tourists would come and spend at our local restaurants. Everyone would benefit.

    5. David S says:

      Would YOU like to live in an apartment building that’s run as a hotel? I wouldn’t want strangers congregating in my building’s lobby and hallways. I wouldn’t want people staying in my building that have no long- (or even short-) term interest in the building’s upkeep or safety.

    6. Emily R. says:

      Aww the yuppies want their tourists, how sad. Sorry folks, looks like you’re stuck living on the real/old Upper West Side for the time being. Enjoy it! It’s going to be a looooong summer. Right now I’m going to look at some books sold by an illegal vendor and smoke pot out in the open on 72nd street. I love this city!

    7. EricaC says:

      Emily, the tourists pay taxes, make jobs, and otherwise support all of us (especially people who rely on jobs and city services). I don’t think this landlord should get away with this, but the way you express your agreement makes it sound as though you think only yuppies benefit from tourists, and that conclusion is not consistent with reality. .

    8. MJ says:

      When will people learn?? This is exactly what happened on 94th st. The landlord wanted to run his SRO with some short term hotel stays. He was shot down by Gail Brewer and others and what happened? Did he stick to SRO long term only to help the less fortunate? No! He converted into a homeless shelter with help from the city and is making a fortune. I wouldn’t want to be a tenant either with short term/Air b-n-b types in and out of my home, but someone better stop this from becoming another shelter and protect it as low income housing!

    9. mcm says:

      The facade of the upper floors of that building are crumbling – it’s not clear why the city isn’t demanding that the maintenance be kept up. It could even be a hazard given that chunk of stone could fall off. ???

    10. Glen says:

      Anything that can deter AirBnB is good news to me. I live in a Co-Op where THREE times in TWO years we had a bedbug infestation (twice in the same unit!). First time it was his “sister who travels a lot,” second time it was “my college roommate visited for a few days.” Under the Multiple Dwelling Law the Co-Op is responsible for paying for pest remediation and it costs THOUSANDS of dollars. For those not in the know, bedbug remediation entails treating the affected unit and the adjacent units, next to, above and below and a lot of personal items have to be heat treated or disposed. On another occasion, a stay over “visitor” was found wandering the halls checking to see if any of the apartment doors were unlocked. I am not anti-tourist, I am just pro-me.

    11. Jay says:

      Tourists belong in hotels.

      You should report the unit to 311 and find the listing on airbnb or whatever website and forward it to the co-op board.

      That should stop things.. It’s generally against the bylaws to run a business out of your apartment. The owner could (and should) be removed from the building or fined severely.

    12. anon says:

      @Glen, do you have doormen? Ours wouldn’t allow anyone into the building unless the owner was with them. Sometimes people are angry that they can’t allow their cousin to use their apartment when they’re out of town but the vast majority of the residents like the strict rules to prevent AirBnB,

    13. Sean says:

      Isn’t this where all the junkies and hookers used to live?

    14. P Corsello says:

      307 West 79th St is located on a residential block of the city. Family neighborhood. Hotel not the appropriate venue. If it wer a building facing the park well then u have something interesting. $100 a night? That’s a joke. U can’t buy a hotel hand towel for 100 bucks. Hotel naa. Maybe he was thinking more brothel! A real cheap one.

    15. Independent says:

      PaulRL and EricaC aptly refuted the contempt and disdain that has (yet again) been expressed toward tourists. But who will defend the “YUPppies”?
      “YUPpies”, as I have always understood the term, simply means, Young Urban Professionals. What, exactly, is the objection to such individuals? Is there something less-than honorable about being a professional? Don’t we all depend upon any number of professionals in our lives? Should people only first become professionals once they are no longer young? Is there any reason why young professionals should not live comfortably in our neighborhood?

    16. drg says:

      The hotel industry works day and night showering money on “their” politicians to thwart any competition. This also keeps the outrageous hotel costs (and taxes ridiculously high)

      Just like the taxi industry and Uber (they lost).

      Its time to break the monopoly. Let small business thrive in NYC and keep costs down for both natives and tourists.

    17. Jay says:

      Tell you what… I’ll set up a tannery in the apartment next door. Then you you can let us know you are still in favor of letting “small business thrive” through unregulated commercial operations in residential buildings.

      Pretty sure you’ll change your tune.

    18. XXX says:

      That would be “affect.” “Effect” is a noun.

    19. Bruce Bernstein says:

      Hurrah for Emily R #6!

    20. Grouchy Gramarian says:

      To XXX:”Effect” can be a noun. But it can also be a verb, meaning to bring about, e.g. “the addition of checkout stations will effect an improvement in customer satisfaction.” But XXX is correct that as used here it should be “affect with an “a”.

    21. Erick says:

      Must say, this elicited a chuckle.

    22. Erick says:

      (Jay’s tannery comment)