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Hotel Toshi in East Village Hit with Violations for Operating Illegally

By Patrick Hedlund | December 1, 2010 1:49pm

By Patrick Hedlund

DNAinfo News Editor

EAST VILLAGE — A short-term apartment rental company that recently converted a dozen units in an East 10th Street building to hotel rooms has been hit with a host of violations from the city for illegally altering the property.

Hotel Toshi, which offers nightly, weekly and monthly stays in furnished rooms across Manhattan and Brooklyn, leased 12 apartments at 325 E. 10th St. and renovated them for transient use, an employee explained.

But the units were converted despite the building's certificate of occupancy prohibiting hotel use, and the company also built partitions to create additional bedrooms without a permit, according to Mayor's Office of Special Enforcement.

After the mayor’s agency inspected the premises last month, the Department of Buildings and Fire Department issued a total of 14 violations for infractions including illegal occupancy in the cellar, an illegal rooftop terrace, a lack of smoke detectors, blocked views of exit signs and an obstructed stairway.

The city investigated the East 10th Street building, which is located on tree-lined block along the north side of Tompkins Square Park, following "several complaints" from the community that it was being operated as an illegal hotel, said Jason Post, of the Mayor's Office of Special Enforcement.

"Illegal hotels damage the character of residential neighborhoods, they take away precious units of affordable housing, and they present life-safety and fire-safety hazards," Post said. "For those reasons we have to make sure that buildings are used as they are zoned."

The hotel is the brainchild of Robert "Toshi" Chan, a Wall Street trader-turned-party planner who rents hotel rooms in about 20 buildings throughout New York City. Chan could not immediately be reached for comment.

The neighborhood blog EV Grieve was the first to take note of Hotel Toshi's arrival, setting off a flurry of comments questioning the operation's legality.

Chan's other converted properties have also come under fire, including one of his hybrid buildings in Brooklyn where apartment tenants have reportedly complained of guests throwing raucous late-night parties.

An employee of the company defended the East Village hotel, saying it prohibits parties and smoking inside the property.

Staffer Augustos Mintz, who helps manage Hotel Toshi’s cleaning staff, added that the hotel is popular among overseas tourists, mainly from Europe and Australia. Prices at the hotel range from about $150 to $500 per night, and some rooms include full kitchens, washers and dryers.

"It's still cheaper than going to the Marriott," said Mintz, who claimed he hadn't heard any complaints from tenants in nearby buildings. "It's that home-away-from-home feel," Mintz said.

Hotels like Hotel Toshi were recently dealt a blow when the city passed legislation this summer making it illegal to convert apartments to hostel-style dwellings for stays less than 30 days. The law does not take effect until May of next year.