Folks have to make their way in this world any way they can. For many travelers, the long-preferred way to go anywhere is to look for the less-traveled road and find sublets, hostels or other makeshift shares. This is especially true in more urban places like New York City; oftentimes alternative lodging is the only way that people can afford to visit. However, a new law signed into effect in Albany by Gov. David Paterson in July could end all that in the Big Apple. With Marriott and Hilton frothing at the mouth at this news, the potential impact of this bill is pretty severe indeed.
According to the NY Daily News, the law, signed by Paterson on July 23 “requires that a class-A multiple dwelling be rented for no less than 30 days.” The Daily News reports that the law “was intended to thwart the problem of landlords renting apartments as hotel rooms to charge more than rent laws allow.” According to reports on DNAinfo.com, the new law is set to go into effect in May 2011.
While there could be some argument for a law like this in buildings where mixed-use residential and hotel-style, short-term stays are rampant, the broad reaches of this law shake the very foundation of hostels and bed and breakfasts in New York City. Just ask Jeremy Archer. Archer is a fully reporting and tax-paying operator of a two-building inn, the Sugar Hill Harlem Inn, located in Harlem’s Sugar Hill neighborhood. He doesn’t have any permanent residents. However, Archer thinks this new law could spell the end for his inn. If the big money, chain hotels could have their way, he says, “They’ll just shut me down.” As a former landlord in Manhattan and a long-standing member of a number of bed and breakfast communities, Archer has played host to guests from all over the world; the news of this new law left him with an utter air of hopelessness.
The whole reason places like the Sugar Hill Harlem Inn exist is so that folks can get a real flavor for New York City life without having to pay New York City prices (recent searches for a room at Times Square Marriott Marquis registered at $699 a night and up for a Saturday in August). Archer was born in Ireland but came to New York more than 30 years ago; with his perspective from both sides of the Atlantic, he’s able to bring an informed opinion to this discussion. Short-term lodging options for visitors from far and near have long been the way that travel has been possible for folks in Europe; some imagined phobia of strangers’ houses, combined with a territorial ‘not-under-my-roof’ conservatism, has made such travel around the United States something of a challenge. The Sugar Hill Harlem Inn, and the scores of other sublets, temporary lodging, room shares and short-term housing options in the five boroughs have been the exception to this rule up until now; the new law strikes at the core of this debate.
While the long-range effects of this New York State law remain to be seen, you can be sure that folks like Archer and owners of other reputable short-term stay opportunities in New York City will have their eye on the situation. While the voices of the smaller properties have raised their objection, the lack of any real cohesion among them may mean that the big-box hotel properties may have won this round. And the Marriott, Hilton, Wyndham and other big-money hotels may end up being the only place left to lay your head in the “city that never sleeps.”