Not even a $500,000 a day security bill or threat of frequent evacuations could stop Airbnb from infiltrating Trump Tower. The Times found a listing on the rental site for an apartment in the Midtown fortress that had been available since at least September until they last week contacted Airbnb, at which time it was taken down. The $300-$450 a night rental didn’t explicitly state the address but was described as “the most secure and unique building” and asked that potential renters be “politically neutral” and not engage in political displays within the building. Despite these strange stipulations and the added nuisance of protestors and having to go through a Secret Service screening, the apartment is booked for most of the next few months, reviews are surprisingly positive, and it has a five-star rating.
A student from Mexico who stayed in the apartment last month said the security was only somewhat inconvenient: “Once you go through it the first time, the Secret Service is something you won’t notice anymore.” He said it’s much like airport security–metal detector scans and an X-ray-type machine–and that once he and his boyfriend presented their I.D.’s and said where they were staying, “they didn’t ask any more questions.”
Mike Lamb, a software engineer from England, described the experience as “surreal.” He stayed in December, experiencing a large protest outside. “You can hear them shouting from high up in the building, he told the Times. “I remember sitting in bed thinking, ‘I can hear them, I wonder if he can hear them.’” He also says he saw Mike Pence walking from his motorcade into the building.
The apartment was available through Airbnb’s instant booking feature, where anyone with an account can reserve the apartment without even messaging the host, which is how a Times reporter booked a stay in April. The first email he received from the host said, “Welcome!! Looking forward to meeting you! Can you please do not tell building staff that it’s Airbnb but that you are rather visiting me. I will really appreciate it!” Two days later, though, the host found out the guest was a journalist and abruptly canceled the reservation, refusing to answer any questions.
This leads to the question of how this listing was able to go unnoticed for so long. As has been the subject of much contention between Airbnb and New York City and state, it’s illegal to rent an apartment for fewer than 30 days when the host isn’t present; this listing advertised the entire apartment with a three-night minimum. Plus, the condo’s rules prohibit listing units on Airbnb.
It’s unclear whether or not the secret service knew about the listing, but Airbnb says they were never contacted by law enforcement or government officials. “This is obviously a unique situation, so we’ve removed this listing from our platform,” said a company spokesman. The Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement says they’re investigating the situation.
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