ALBANY — A state senator from the Hudson Valley lashed out at the Hotel Trade Council on Wednesday after taking heat for proposing new rules regulating home-sharing platforms such as Airbnb.
Sen. James Skoufis slammed the “unprofessional thugs” at the hotel worker union for pushing back on a bill he introduced that critics claim would water down current rules on short-term rentals and worsen the city’s affordable housing shortage.
“11:13am: Hotel Trades Council texts me asking for meeting. I call and respond I’m happy to meet. Hours later: slings personal attacks at me,” Skoufis tweeted, along with a screenshot of texts with HTC representative Jason Ortiz. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to address homesharing concerns. I will not work with unprofessional thugs. No one should.”
Earlier, the HTC shared several tweets targeting Skoufis. One social media post included a quote from Tenants Political Action Committee treasurer Michael McKee blasting the Democrat for taking money from Airbnb during last year’s election cycle.
“It’s the definition of hypocrisy to rail against pay-to-play politics and then sponsor legislation that benefits a company (@Airbnb) that just spent $500,000 to help get you elected,” McKee wrote.
Skoufis’ bill, which has the backing of the San Francisco-based company, would ban short-term rentals in affordable housing or rent-stabilized units and limit city residents to listing a single property on home-sharing sites.
It would also require home-sharing sites to register the names of hosts with the state and collect occupancy taxes on behalf of the city and state. Current rules impose hefty fines on homeowners who rent out their entire home for fewer than 30 days.
Airbnb and other such sites have been engaged in a protracted fight against legislation in Albany and the city that would require the companies to disclosure host information to enforcement agencies. A Manhattan federal judge ruled in January that Airbnb did not have to turn over data on its hosts to city authorities after Mayor de Blasio signed a bill last year cracking down on the company.
Skoufis responded to accusations that he’s in the pocket of the corporation by noting that McKee’s group also donated to his Senate bid.
“I co-sponsored the homesharing bill in the Assembly, long before Airbnb ran an independent expenditure in the Senate race last year (not a direct contribution). I also received a large, direct contribution from Tenants PAC,” he wrote. “Homesharing is a contentious, complicated issue.”
He then again accused the HTC of “thuggery.”
“I want to work with any reasonable stakeholders to address concerns in the bill. HTC and some of their allies, however, are clearly more interested in spreading outright lies and engaging in thuggery than at least trying to collaborate,” he tweeted.
The union responded by noting the racial undertone of the language Skoufis used.
“It’s disappointing that anyone, let alone a Democratic Senator, would call a union that represents mostly people of color and women a thug. Policy debates should be able to happen without racially tinged name-calling. @JamesSkoufis, you can do better,” the HTC tweeted.