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Posted: Thursday, August 22, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:12 am, Thu Aug 29, 2013.

Hotel industry, state seek crackdown on illegal room rentals

The Hotel Association of New York City is hoping to file a class action lawsuit against airbnb, one of several websites through which people rent out their homes to travelers, often in violation of the law, according to a report published Monday by Crain’s New York Business. The article said state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is also looking at ways to crack down on people violating a 2010 law that bans renting out space for less than 30 days when the owner is not present, a rule administered by the city Office of Enforcement.

A quick search Tuesday of airbnb turned up many rooms and apartments for rent by the night in Queens, from Astoria to Jamaica. The site said more than 1,000 were listed, though that includes any in New York that mention Queens, such as one Manhattan post that said the apartment is in an upscale area “not to be confused with places in Harlem, New Jersey or the other boroughs like Brooklyn and Queens.”

Many residents dislike the transient nature of the rentals and are concerned about overcrowding, as are the city and state, along with nonpayment of hotel taxes. Crain’s said some renters don’t even know they’re breaking the law.

Toxic site updates now require online signup

Anyone who wants to receive updates on contaminated sites in Queens the state is working to clean up, such as the Flushing River, the former Ozone Industries factory in Ozone Park and various old dry cleaners around the borough, must sign up anew for the Department of Environmental Conservation’s mailing list.

The information, which includes proposed cleanup plans open to public comment, meeting times on specific sites and the like, is now being emailed. To receive the updates — along with other DEC news if desired — one must register at dec.ny.gov/chemical/61092.html.

Those who still want information sent via traditional mail may write to the DEC’s Division of Environmental Remediation, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-7012. Only households have that option, and the name of the specific site for which updates are requested must be included.

Energy seller misleads residents, state says

An energy service company of the kind that has sparked numerous complaints for aggressive and misleading marketing in Queens and elsewhere could lose its eligibility to operate in the state, the Public Service Commission announced last Thursday.

ESCOs provide electricity and natural gas, offering different rates than utilities like Con Edison, though the utility still handles actual delivery. ESCO reps often sell their services door to door, and many residents allege false marketing practices. They say reps have signed them up without authorization, and that some even have claimed to be with Con Ed.

An ESCO called Buy Energy Direct appears to have done all that, even after prior warnings about its practices, the PSC said. The company was given one week to convince the state it should be allowed to continue operating.

Peralta bill would add to Qns. tourism funds

Four percent of hotel tax revenue generated in Queens would go into efforts to promote tourism here, under a new bill introduced by state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst).

The funds would be capped at $300,000 a year, five times as much as the city’s tourism arm, NYC & Co., provides to each borough. The money could be used to promote for-profit businesses such as restaurants, while NYC & Co. funds can only advertise nonprofits. Peralta said NYC & Co. does “outstanding work” promoting all boroughs, and that some Manhattan-centric marketing is understandable, but that “Queens represents what New York City is really all about.” Under his plan, some funds would go toward updating and distributing the free “This is Queens” phone app, developed by the borough’s Chamber of Commerce.

— compiled by Peter C. Mastrosimone

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