For $185 a night you can stay in a cozy Glen Head home with three bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms and a funky charm all its own. Despite its five-star rating on Airbnb, neighbors of the home, at 53 Todd Drive East, have filed complaints with the Town of Oyster Bay’s Code Enforcement Bureau, expressing concern about the rental’s potential negative effects on the community.
“How can hotel-type homes come up in a residential area, and what kind of laws are there to prevent or mitigate that?” said John Dussel, vice president of the Todd Estates Civic Association. “Having people we don’t know coming in and out of our neighborhood at all times is a concern. Here we have a house within 100 feet of the high school that’s being rented to people, and we have no idea who they are.”
Dussel first learned of the property earlier this month, when a neighbor recognized it on Airbnb’s website and brought it to his attention. After confirming the address, Dussel, along with George Pombar, the president of the association, filed a complaint with the bureau alleging a potential violation of the town code.
According to Marta Kane, a town spokeswoman, the bureau issued a notice of violation for “alleged business in a single-family dwelling” to the homeowner, Robert Grayson. She explained via email that if the town did not hear from Grayson by the end of the month, the bureau would reissue the notice.
Grayson, who grew up on Long Island and attended North Shore High School, explained in an email to the Herald Gazette that he was renting out the home as a means to maintain the property, which once belonged to his late father. “Over the years I have suffered the loss of my brother and sister, my mother and most recently, my father,” he said. “My father lived in Glen Head for 40 years, [and] as the remaining generational survivor of my family I am winding up the affairs of my dad.”
Strengthening the laws
Oyster Bay Town Councilman Louis Imbroto, who chairs the town’s Quality of Life Task Force, has been working on draft legislation to regulate Airbnbs. “We already have laws on the books which deal with illegal housing, and which may apply [to] Airbnbs, but the current laws can be strengthened to further restrict short-term rentals,” he said. “It’s a major quality-of-life issue when you have constant turnover of random strangers coming and going at all hours of the day and night, and residents shouldn’t have to tolerate that. At the same time, property owners should have control over the way they use their property.”
Imbroto said that the town attorney was reviewing “all relevant laws” to determine legally viable regulations for short-term rentals that also strike a balance between quality of life and the rights of property owners. “We’ll also be [looking at] how other municipalities on Long Island and across the country have approached the issue,” he said.
Last year, the Village of Sea Cliff passed bylaws regulating the use of short-term dwelling units in all of its zoning districts. In 2017, half a dozen residents complained to trustees that one house in the village was being rented out as an Airbnb for weekend-long parties. In its investigation, the board found that not one, but 11 Sea Cliff properties were being openly advertised on Airbnb.
“We had multiple public hearings before we changed the statutes because we didn’t want to get into a regulation that would hurt the law-abiding residents,” said Deputy Mayor Kevin McGilloway. “It was very important for us to find a balance that protected quality of life and also allowed individual property owners to take maximum advantage of their ownership.”
The statute allows short-term dwelling units to operate in the village only if the homeowner obtains a permit from the village clerk. The permit authorizes the maintenance, operation, rental, lease or use of the premises for up to 30 days, and may be obtained or issued for use no more than two times per year.
Though Imbroto did not provide a clear timeline for when the legislation would be brought to the Town Council for a vote, he did say that the town takes quality-of-life issues “very seriously.” “It’s perhaps our greatest resource, and the reason many people choose to live here,” he said. “We never want our residents to have to put up with anything that diminishes their quality of life.”
Grayson also wrote, “I care about this neighborhood and my . . . neighbors . . . all of whom have my contact details and warm invitation to contact me with any issues. I would prefer that people reach out to me personally [rather] than through the media, as I am both a ‘local’ and am undertaking my responsibilities.”