Partial Vacate Order for Illegal Hotel

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Tourists who booked hotel rooms in an Upper West Side brownstone might have to check in at a more established hotel, following a partial vacate order issued by the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement. The building, 262 W. 73rd St., between Broadway and West End Avenue, has both rent-stabilized and rent-controlled apartments.
“Special Enforcement has conducted an inspection of the location and observed illegally subdivided rooms and an illegal conversion,” Jason Post, a spokesperson for the office, wrote in an email.
On Nov. 4, tenants returned home to find vacate and stop work orders posted on the door to the building. The orders referenced two apartments in the basement.
Council Member Gale Brewer sent a letter to the office after receiving complaints from a number of building tenants.

A tenant heads into the West 73rd Street brownstone that the city said contained illegally subdivided rooms. Photo by Andrew Schwartz

A tenant heads into the West 73rd Street brownstone that the city said contained illegally subdivided rooms. Photo by Andrew Schwartz

Tenants, who asked to be kept anonymous so they would not upset their landlord, said they started noticing tourists armed with luggage this past summer. A couple of months ago, they discovered that their address had been listed on websites such as www.hotels.com. The advertisement, which calls the building “Kore 73,” tells guests that the hotel’s check-in location isn’t at West 73rd Street.
“Guests must check in and pick up keys at Kore Properties’ office at 155 West 83rd St., New York City, New York,” the ad says. “The office requests that guests contact the office with estimated time of arrival upon booking confirmation.”
On more than one occasion, according to one tenant, tourists arrived at the building without keys and had to be directed to the office on West 83rd Street.
Until recently, more than half of the building’s 10 apartments were used as hotel rooms, the tenants said. Most visitors are Europeans who stay for just a few days.
The illegal lodging business is nothing new on the Upper West Side. Earlier this year, the West Side Neighborhood Alliance conducted a study that found 270 buildings operating as illegal hotels in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.
Jackie Del Valle, director of organizing for the Housing Conservation Co-
ordinations, which sponsors the alliance, said most violations focus on fire safety code and safety in general.
Although the alliance found 270 buildings hosting illegal hotels in New York, Del Valle said the number, which came from websites and tenant complaints, is “conservative.” Often, tenants don’t want to jeopardize the relationship with their landlord by making formal complaints.
Although tenants at 262 W. 73rd St. approached Brewer about their concerns, the landlord, Jacob Avid, said they never approached him.
“I wish they had spoken to me,” he said when told about the complaints. “They haven’t, but I will call the tenants to speak to them about it.”
Avid said “just a few” apartments in the building are rented as hotel rooms and the building is the only property he rents to tourists. But the Kore Realty website lists a number of properties: Kore-83, Kore-150, Kore-339, Kore-6, Kore-31, Kore-341, Kore-94 and Kore-58.
At the time of the interview, which was before the partial vacate order, Avid said he didn’t think renting out hotel rooms was a problem.
“We’re allowed to rent out weekly-type situations, because it’s always been that way,” he said. “We’ve had it on and off through the years—it just depends on the situation with the economy.”
Avid did not return calls for comment after the partial vacate order was issued.
But Yarrow Willman-Cole, a tenant organizer for the Goddard Riverside Community Center SRO Law Project, said running a hotel in a residential building is never legal.
“Regardless of how you interpret the law, it’s still illegal,” she said. “There’s still issues with safety.”
But the building on West 73rd Street is classified as both a Class A building—
residential—and Class B, which can be used for transients, she said. The Department of Buildings lists three certificates of occupancy for the property. “Basically, you could say it’s a little murky,” she said of the building’s classification.
Willman-Cole said that legislation governing illegal hotels needs to be reworked.
“That’s what the next step of the city should be,” she said, adding that part of the problem is the relatively lenient penalties landlords face. “The trend is only going to worsen. We’re already hearing about it in the outer boroughs, Upper Harlem.”

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