New York City has been aggressively challenging Airbnb, contending many sublets on its site are illegal because residents aren’t there. And the city says such rentals are cheating the city of lodging taxes. Since the mayor’s office began examining short-term rentals in 2006, it has fielded more than 3,000 complaints and issued almost 6,000 notices of violation, including fire, safety and occupancy infractions, which carry fines. Airbnb says 87 percent of hosts in New York share the space they live in with guests. The company has called the subpoena of customer information by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman an “unfounded fishing expedition” and says hosts are responsible for following varying laws around the world. NYC & Company , the city’s official tourism agency, issued a statement saying, “This illegal practice takes away much needed hotel tax revenue from city coffers with no consumer protections against fire- and health-code violations.” Neither city officials nor hotel organizations would estimate how much revenue hotels and the city might be losing. Landlords and tenant organizations have long complained that short-term sublets are a violation of most leases and a security issue. Having strangers coming in and out of a residential building “is a terrible problem,” says Tom Cayler, chairman of the Illegal Hotel Committee for Manhattan’s West Side Neighborhood Alliance. “If you come home at night and there are people in the lobby or elevator who you don’t know, you should be scared.” Sam Shaber, a musician who rented space on the Lower East Side for $150 to $225 a night, says she welcomed guests from France, Argentina, Sweden and elsewhere. And she said she always got a good sense of them from online exchanges and profiles before handing over the keys. “In this day and age of Craigslist , we have a radar for who’s weird,” Shaber said. “We never had one problem.” Airbnb renters say they can offer an experience hotels can’t — the opportunity to live like a native in funky neighborhoods off the beaten tourist paths. Sergio Verdasco, 33, a mechanical engineer in San Sebastian, Spain, was hosted by Farer in Williamsburg for three nights.
U.S. or military court President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have previously said they prefer to try people such as al Libi in American courts. In 2009, Holder said five detainees with alleged ties to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks would be transferred from Guantanamo Bay to New York for trial in civilian court. Holder then reversed course, announcing that accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others would be tried in a military commission at Guantanamo. Al Libi was indicted in 2001 by the federal court in the Southern District of New York in the embassy bombings and in connection with his alleged roles in al Qaeda conspiracies to attack U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Somalia. State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said last week that there was no chance that al Libi would end up at Guantanamo. “The administration’s position on Guantanamo is clear: Our goal is not to add to the population, it’s to reduce it, which we’ve done,” she said. “Our policy is not to send any new detainees to Guantanamo.” Family wants a lawyer Al Libi’s family said they had received no news about him from the U.S. or Libyan governments and were shocked to learn that he had arrived in the United States. His son, Abdullah, said the family hoped to get a lawyer who would “work with him, for him.” It was unclear if al Libi already has a lawyer. “We don’t want him talking to just anyone,” Abdullah said. “We don’t want just any lawyer asking him questions.” Some terrorism experts have questioned how much valuable intelligence al Libi would be able to provide. A former jihadist associate told CNN last week that it was unlikely that he still had an active role with the terrorist network.