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June 25, 2019

City sues Manhattan developer over alleged illegal short-term Airbnb rentals in three buildings

January 10, 2019
This picture taken on march 2, 2017, shows the logo of online lodging service Airbnb displayed on a computer screen. (LIONEL BONAVENTURE / AFP/Getty Images)


The de Blasio administration is suing a Manhattan real estate developer it alleges illegally offered short-term rentals online.


City lawyers contend that Torkian Group, LLC generated more than $1.1 million by reserving 1,029 short-term rentals described as “transient occupancy.” The bookings in at least 13 apartments were between February 2015 and October 2018, according to the lawsuit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court Wednesday.

“The people that are engaged in this activity are not regular people making a few dollars here and there,” said Christian Klossner, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement. “These are sophisticated business people taking housing meant for New Yorkers and turning it into profit.”

Tourists rented spots in the buildings located at 311 W. 50th St., 110 Greenwich St., and 488 Seventh Ave., the suit says.

Apartments were mostly advertised on Airbnb but some were also listed on HomeAway, TripAdvisor, and, the court papers allege. The apartments were listed as “Ultra Luxurious Designer Large Apartment — Top Floor — Fitness, Doorman, Terrace” or “Amazing FiDi LOFT Steps 9/11 Tall Ceiling True NYC.”

Rent for those spots was $385 and $199, the suit says.

Over the past three years, the city has hit Torkian Group with 23 violations and imposed $64,000 in fines, records show. City law prohibits most landlords from renting apartments for less than 30 days.

A Torkian Group representative did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The de Blasio administration is at war with Airbnb, saying the roughly 50,000 listings in the five boroughs creates a shortage of affordable rentals. That has exacerbated the city’s affordable housing crisis, city officials contend.

In response, Airbnb charges the de Blasio administration is placating the powerful hotel lobby.

City officials also maintain that long-term residents are frustrated by a constant changeover in their apartment buildings.

“The city government continually receives complaints about unlawful short-term transient occupancies from many sources — calls to 311, letters and emails from the public, communications from elected officials and community groups — regarding excessive noise from tourists, overflowing trash, fires, loud fighting, drugs, prostitution, and the like,” the lawsuit says.

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