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Long IslandPoliticsSpin Cycle

Senator hits Airbnb’s ‘AstroTurf’ lobbying effort

ALBANY — A day ahead of Airbnb’s big lobby day at the State Capitol, one senator accused the company of conducting a phony grassroots effort.

Sen. Liz Krueger also ridiculed Airbnb’s upcoming rally as part of a push to increase the company’s valuation before making a public stock offering.

“Once again, Albany is about to be subjected to Airbnb’s corporate-funded ‘astroturf’ lobbying, another desperate attempt by the company to raise their valuation before going public,” Krueger (D-Manhattan) said in a statement. “Fortunately for New York City residents, legislators are not buying it.”

“AstroTurf” lobbying efforts are those that seem to be launched by average citizens, but in fact are backed by large corporations.

An Airbnb spokesman took issue with Krueger’s characterization.

“In reality, more than 100 real New Yorkers are taking time out of their busy schedules to come to Albany tomorrow to advocate for a bill that allows them to responsibly share their home and protects neighborhood quality of life,” said Airbnb spokesman Peter Schottenfels.

At issue is a bill that would lift significant restrictions on short-term housing rentals. New York State is considered to have among the toughest rental laws — and last year, lawmakers made them even stronger by approving legislation that can bring fines for renting out an entire home for less than 30 days.

Assemb. Joseph Lentol (D-Brooklyn), the bill’s chief sponsor, said the ban on short-term rentals, or “home sharing,” is outdated in today’s economy.

“Home sharing is here to stay. We need to provide strong laws so that it can be done in a safe and responsible way,” Lentol said. “Most people participate in this program because they need help to pay bills — to help them maintain their residence in expensive” New York City.

Lentol said the bill targets some of the problems found in illegal short-term rentals by limiting an owner to one listing to prevent “commercial actors” from listing multiple apartments or houses. The measure would require owners to have insurance. It also would implement a “three strikes” policy that would ban an owner from listing if he or she repeatedly violates state and city regulations.

Krueger countered that the state’s tight laws are a result of the “explosion of illegal short-term rentals.”

“We heard from seniors harassed by partying tourists; parents who could no longer let their children play in the halls; neighbors whose buildings were being overrun by strangers; and even landlords whose units were being used for illegal purposes without their knowledge,” Krueger said.

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