Several City Council members are pushing to legalize youth hostels in New York City, five years after a citywide crackdown wiped them out.
In 2010, the state legislature passed the "Illegal Hotels Bill" that outlawed using residential units as hotel rooms, shutting down virtually the entire hostel industry in New York. Fifty-five hostels across the city were shuttered for either violating zoning laws or operating under conditions that the city deemed dangerous.
Former City Council member Mark Weprin introduced a bill in February to regulate hostels, allowing them to open and operate in commercial zones. After Weprin resigned in June to work for Gov. Andrew Cuomo the bill was taken up by Council Member Margaret Chin.
Like Weprin, Chin also claimed that the city lost millions in revenue over the past few years because many young travelers can't find affordable accommodations and skip the city.
"What we're doing is resolving this unintended consequence in legislation that would allow hostels to operate in a reasonable manner and take advantage of this pool of global tourism," said Paul Leonard, a spokesman for Chin, a Democrat who represents lower Manhattan. A spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the administration is reviewing the legislation and has no official position yet.
Other sponsors of the bill are council members David Greenfield, Jumaane Williams, Rafael Espinal Jr. and Karen Koslowitz.
About five hostels currently operate in the city but they categorize themselves as hotels on the city's books while advertising as hostels or offer "hostel-like" amenities, with the exception of the nonprofit organization Hostelling International that received a special permit by the city in 1989 to operate as a hostel.
If there are hostels operating legally in NYC, then why do we need new laws to make them more available? There is already a pathway to operation.