In today’s Mike-Bloomberg-praises-himself news, we’ve got for you a story about illegal hotels, fire hazards, and, one of the mayor’s favorite things — numbers.
Late yesterday afternoon, the mayor’s office released results of the city’s ongoing efforts to curb illegal hotels, which are converted residential buildings that are often plagued by dangerous conditions and are generally disliked by elected officials and New Yorkers who live near them (we imagine some tourists may like them?).
According to the mayor, the city’s doing a good job!
These “hotels” are buildings that are designated for permanent occupancy, but are converted, often unsafely, into hostels and hotels by landlords who hope to attract tourists or others looking for a temporary place to stay.
In 2011, the city’s Office of Special Enforcement issued 1,897 violations to landlords after completing inspections of these converted buildings. This, the mayor says, marks a 244 percent increase from the previous year. That agency also vacated 51 additional locations — a jump of 75.9 percent from 2010 — for hazardous conditions, including lacking fire alarms, adequate sprinkler systems, harboring firetraps, etc. This latest data comes after Bloomberg pushed last year for a state bill that strengthened the Special Enforcement office’s ability to take actions against these illegal hotels. This office was created under Bloomberg in 2006, with the aim of coordinating and enhancing enforcement efforts across the city.
This latest initiative, and the successful results he is announcing, is right in line with a recurring Bloomberg tactic of working to give City Hall more direct oversight of an issue and then reporting statistics that show how the situation has improved under his closer watch (think: education).
Bloomberg says in the release sent out yesterday: “With the adoption of the May 2011 legislation, we rectified ambiguities in the law surrounding the definition of illegal hotels, allowing for more effective action to be taken against them. Today’s news is a clear indication of the progress being made, but we need to continue to be vigilant in order to tackle the issue of illegal hotels and the serious quality-of-life problems and safety hazards they create.”
The problem of illegal hotels is also one that irks permanent residents and housing advocates, since it limits the supply of available housing, particularly with rent-regulated and low-income housing. And, the mayor’s office says, they harm “the residential character of neighborhoods.”
The state legislation, adopted in May last year, defines “transient occupancy” as fewer than 30 days, making it illegal for any single unit of a residential building to be used that way. Penalties for violations are a minimum of $800 and can exceed $2,000 for repeat offenders.