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Airbnb Touts Growth of Tourists Staying in City's Predominantly Black Areas

By Amy Zimmer | April 21, 2016 8:34am

BROOKLYN —Airbnb, the wildly popular but politically embattled short-term stay platform, says it's helping boost the economies of New York’s predominantly black neighborhoods, where the number of guests are increasing significantly faster than in other parts of the city.

The company said it analyzed the 30 ZIP codes with the largest percentage of black populations in the city, based on 2014 Census data using five-year estimates. It found that about 14 percent of the 1.26 million people who used Airbnb in the city in 2015 stayed in these 30 ZIP codes, according to the report released Thursday.

This represented a 78 percent increase in the number of guests from the year before. Citywide, the number of guests grew by 51 percent, the company said

Bedford-Stuyvesant led the pack.

Nearly 40,000 people last year stayed in the 11221 ZIP code, which includes part of Bushwick. Many locals have said they’ve seen a huge influx of tourists in the area, particularly from the Netherlands and France staying in Bed-Stuy’s brownstones.

In fact, the top three of these 30 ZIP codes were in Bed-Stuy, according to Airbnb's data, provided to DNAinfo.

The next two most popular ZIP codes were in Crown Heights and Prospect Lefferts-Gardens, followed by West Harlem.

The company's report estimated that people staying in Airbnbs helped pump more than $43 million into the pockets of hosts in these 30 areas.

In all, there were roughly 5,100 Airbnb hosts in these 30 ZIP codes in April, up from just 1,900 three years ago, the report said, noting the typical income from hosting in these zip codes was $6,100 annually.

The areas that saw the largest upticks included the Wakefield and Edenwald sections of The Bronx, the Southeast Queens area of Laurelton (near John F. Kennedy Airport), and the Arverne section of the Rockaways, according to the data.

Local businesses have been reaping the rewards, too, the report noted.

“Any given night, you’ll meet someone here from anywhere in the world and they’re here because their host told them about us,” Rotimi Akinnuoye, owner of Bed-Stuy’s Bed-Vyne Wine on Tompkins and Putnam avenues, said in the report. “Without those guests and hosts, it’s a chunk of our business we don’t have.”

Airbnb has come under fire from politicians since hosts sometimes flout the city’s housing laws, and many landlords have been on guard against Airbnb in New York City, where it is illegal to rent out an apartment for fewer than 30 days, unless the host is present. 

Airbnb highlighted that hosts in these 30 ZIP codes were more likely to offer private rooms or shared spaces, often in townhouses, rather than renting out whole apartments in buildings.

Some 58 percent of hosts in these predominantly black neighborhoods offered private or shared rooms compared to 44 percent of hosts citywide.

But critics of Airbnb called this data misleading, and noted that Airbnb's practices further exacerbate the city's housing crisis, which is affecting black and Latino New Yorkers at disproportionate rates.

"The company is highlighting that 58 percent of hosts are offering private rooms as opposed to whole apartments, however that still leaves nearly 50 percent of their hosts contributing to the lack of housing options in the city," City Council members Jumaane Williams and Helen Rosenthal said in a statement.

The report is "an attempt at clever misdirection by Airbnb," the council members said. "They may want to focus our attention on the hosts who are using the service legally, but we are focused on the ones they are continuing to hide and are using the system illegally."

Rosenthal and Williams also questioned who was profiting from these Airbnb stays.

"More likely than not, the apartment owners do not live in the same communities they are profiting from," they said.

The council members noted that the city needs to work with developers and community organizers on adding hotels to provide tourist accommodations in all boroughs.
The report noted that only 6 percent — or 65 — of the city's 1,000-plus hotels are in these predominantly black neighborhoods, and 20 of them are airport hotels.