Looks like the party’s over at the Animal House.
At least 30 people gathered in front of 2437 Fenton Avenue, a quiet, non-assuming house in Pelham Gardens.
It’s 11 a.m. on a Monday and the crowd is fierce. There are children, older women, middle aged men, and young people alike.
As they await the arrival of Senator Jeff Klein, the signs they hold tell the story: “Airbnb is bad for NYC”, “ I don’t want to live in a hotel” , “STOP illegal hotels now”, “Your business is a parisite in my neighborhood”, and so on.
One sign read “sharing economy” with the word “sharing” crossed out and replaced with “selfish”.
For $750 a night, the property rented out as ‘Fenton Lounge’, a nightclub where loud music played until after 5 a.m., strippers graced the specially installed pole in the backyard, jello shots were sold, and noise complaints from neighbors were largely ignored.
Sites like Airbnb where the owner of the residence – turned – nightclub, Nebi Ayele, has posted advertisements, have assisted in making this possible.
If Ayle was renting the residence his actions would be illegal, but under current legislation he is breaking no laws by renting the place out on a nightly basis.
Klein held a press conference in partnership with Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj, in front of the house in response to the public outrage.
As he stood in front of his “Protecting Our Community” sign, the senator addressed the cheering crowd with vows to protect the residents calm and tranquil way of life.
“This doesn’t belong in any residential place,” said the senator, “ The owner has turned this home into an illegal Airbnb nightclub… for over a year you have put up with this nonsense. I say, enough is enough.”
Klein added that Airbnb should be held accountable for those who post on their site by performing background checks to ensure that there have been no violations or complaints at the property.
Klein plans on introducing legislation in Albany which would ban one- and two-family homes from short term rentals.
Right now this law only applies to apartments. He hopes to have this legislation in effect by the end of the [new] year.
Airbnb removed the listing on the same morning as the press conference.
A spokesman from the company responded by stating that they are investigating the matter to ensure that these kind of disturbances don’t happen again.
“This situation underscores how important it is for all of us to work together on an approach to home sharing…we look forward to working with city and state officials to identify a policy that will help people share their homes while also addressing specific NYC concerns,” the spokesman said.
At a time when sites like Airbnb are only gaining in popularity, the question is begged – at what point is the line crossed between renting out a residance to “make ends meet” as a spokeswoman from Airbnb put it, and using that private residence as a commercial property?
President of the 49th Precinct Community Council , Joe Thompson, spoke with enthusiasm about the issue.
“This can’t exist. This is the heart of America. If we let this block down, we let down America. We are looking at people who struggle to get where they are. And now they’re here. I respect individual rights but not when it encroaches on others. We all know each other.. all of a sudden we’re getting 300 plus people that nobody knows. There are no commercial establishments here. And thats probably why this place was chosen. This is middle America, this is where it starts and this is where it must end.”
One neighbor who chose to remain annonomous stated that when the parties got rowdy and the cops were called, the party would quiet down until the police left, at which point party goers would curse the neighbors and turn the music back up.
These parties have taken place on and off over the past year, most recently on November 28.
Ayele, the mastermind behind the lounge, and owner of the residence, made an appearance as the press conference was ending.
The crowd gained momentum as he took the podium, the true anger of the neighboorhood surfacing.
Protestors jeered as Ayele spoke, chanting “Shame on you! Shame! Shame!” and telling him to have some respect.
The owner proceeded to defend himself against what he called slanderous words.
“You come and make a press conference, you don’t know what you’re talking about. This is defamation.You got friends in high places, senator,” said Ayele to Senator Klein, “that’s fine, but this is how I make a living.”
In response the crowd’s screams escalated, one woman shouting, “We work hard and pay taxes, get a real job my friend.”
“If it was up to me I’d do it everyday, I’m a party animal,” said Ayele, “If I want to have a party I will.”