ALBANY, N.Y. – Danny Glover was shouted down at a rally for Airbnb hosts in the New York state capitol Tuesday when activists working on behalf of a union for hotel workers infiltrated the event and began heckling the 71-year-old actor.
Glover had just began speaking at the event when the protesters began yelling over him, accusing the longtime liberal activist of betraying minorities and the poor by working as a paid adviser to Airbnb. Hecklers said the effort was organized by the Hotel Trades Council, a leading opponent of Airbnb.
“You used to be on the right side!” one yelled.
Glover, the star of the “Lethal Weapon” series, tried to continue his remarks but left the rally as the shouting continued. He later told The Associated Press that he supports Airbnb because it provides everyday people with a technologically innovative way to make ends meet in cities that only grow more expensive.
“I’m talking about empowering people,” he said.
Tuesday’s pro-Airbnb rally, which featured several dozen Airbnb hosts, highlighted the contentious debate over regulating the popular online home rental service. Critics of the San Francisco-based company say it is reducing housing options and driving up costs as landlords choose short-term Airbnb users over long-term tenants. The Hotel Trades Council also is opposed to what it sees as unfair competition.
“I understand Mr. Glover is wealthy and famous and companies ask him for endorsements all the time,” said Tyrone Connell, a member of the union and one of those who heckled Glover. “But in this case, he’s working for Airbnb whose business is built on taking away affordable housing and displacing tenants, especially for low-income people of colour.”
Two years ago, under pressure from the union, the state Legislature and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo passed some of the toughest rules for short-term rentals in the nation, making it illegal to rent out an entire apartment in a multi-unit building for less than 30 days. Officials in New York City were given the power to impose hefty fines on violators.
Many of the hosts who gathered in Albany on Tuesday said the rules must be changed.
“We need our voices to be heard,” said Joy Williams, who said she faces up to $65,000 in fines after she listed two units she owns in Harlem on Airbnb.
The legislation now pending before lawmakers — and supported by Airbnb — would roll back many of those rules and impose new regulations, including a ban prohibiting anyone from listing more than one property on the website.
“Airbnb is everywhere in the world,” said state Sen. John Bonacic, a Republican and the sponsor of the bill in the Senate. “Why can’t it be successful in New York?”