Airbnb isn't just for tourists any more.
Under attack in the city by the hotel industry, co-op boards, landlords and even legislators who want to stop or stymie locals renting out rooms, apartments and homes via the easy online service, Airbnb endured another setback when it was reported this week that prostitutes are using the rooms for appointments.
It turns out local folks rent out accommodations via Airbnb for all kinds of things in space-deprived NYC. And -- not suprisingly -- participants aren't always entirely forthcoming about their intentions or what they're bringing to the table.
Young people desperate for a taste of Manhattan glamour and constrained by dorm-sized living spaces, noise-averse neighbors and exacting landlords say the service is ideal for booking an apartment in a cool neighborhood to "pre-game" a night out, entertain friends and party in a way they never would -- or could -- in their own homes.
Keith, an East Village landlord who did not want his last name used, said a young woman from New Jersey booked his townhouse claiming she needed to be in the city for a job interview. "She had a party for 30 people," said Keith, who lives in the adjacent unit. "I had her Facebook profile, so I called her mom and said, 'your daughter is throwing a party here,' and we resolved the situation," he recounted. After that experience, Keith established a two-night minimum to deter party location predators and now scrutinizes locals -- especially young locals -- requesting a booking with a keen eye.
A Nolita landlord named Jeff echoed the sentiment of several hosts who all insisted that the majority of guests were trouble-free tourists and foreign visitors. But, Jeff noted, he did discover that "kids" to whom he rented an apartment left "some holes in a couple doors over Super Bowl weekend."
In a statement, Airbnb said it "is built on a foundation of trust and respect. Guests who don't tell the truth and aren't respectful will be promptly removed from our community,"
St. John's University student Alexa Vagelatos, 21, had 20 people over to an Airbnb rental on the Lower East Side to celebrate her 21st birthday in February. The host "didn't say anything about not having a party: Just about not being loud," which her guests were not, she said. She rented the LES apartment because she shares an apartment in Fresh Meadows with roommates, and her landlord castigates her for having "even one other person over or music playing. . . . His cousin lives below us and tells on us. If you don't have your own place, you're subject to getting in trouble for anything," said Vagelatos.
She added that she took care to clean up and that she and her host gave each other complimentary feedback on the site after her stay.
"Using Airbnb for a social gathering can be permissible if guests are honest with their hosts and respect their neighbors," according to Airbnb. Some scrupulously honest NYC guests have found that to be true.
Erik Cabetas, 34, a Brooklyn tech consultant, has always been straightforward with hosts about why he wanted their real estate. "We never thought anyone would let us over to cook dinner for 12 people," but that's exactly what one host OK'd for a Thanksgiving celebration three years ago, Cabetas recounted.
More recently, Cabetas and four friends went on an Airbnb hunt for a large apartment to serve as home base for a marathon coding session because "all of us had small apartments" and they wanted to work long hours together while exploring a new business possibility. (with Shawn McCreesh