New York: Lee’s Airbnb Story

Meet Lee.Lee Thomas_NY_Palmer_20160712_RET-002

Several years ago, Lee was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. With medical bills stacking up and the need to retire early from his career in finance to focus on his health, Lee turned to Airbnb to help him stay afloat.

Nestled on a tree-lined street in Ozone Park, Queens, Lee’s two-family house is a traveler’s dream. Boasting a well-manicured, private garden and a screened in porch perched in the backyard, it’s the escape to Eden that most New York tourists would never know existed. “What most people like about this part of town is that they can go see all the tourist attractions in Manhattan during the day and then come back here and relax. It’s like a tranquil retreat,” Lee says.

“We enjoy meeting new people and showing them our city. We introduce them to the local merchants, give them a daily map of places to go and things to do.” Lee and his partner, Kumar, often invite guests to join them for backyard BBQs, picnics or dinner parties. “I’m a Yankees season ticket holder, so if I’m unable to make it to a game, I might offer the tickets to my guests. I’m not just a Superhost. I’m a Super Duper Host!”

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Lee and Kumar have had guests from all over the world. One such couple from Mexico came to town for the Belmont Stakes and made the misstep of flying into Newark Airport, which is significantly further away from Ozone Park than JFK. When the couple left their iPad at the rental car counter at Newark and said they would go back to get it the next day, Lee told them, “We’re going to get it tonight and I’m going to take you,” and drove them all the way to Newark and back in the middle of the night. They recovered their iPad and found a trusted guide in Lee. Super Duper Host, indeed.

Lee’s been a strong advocate for home sharing in his neighborhood and often gathers with other hosts in the area, many of whom would be deeply affected by Albany’s latest attempt to curb home sharing and penalize hosts with hefty fines. “You can’t put the genie back in the bottle,” Lee says. “People always did home sharing – Airbnb just created a platform for it. The hotel industry started this whole campaign, but they’re going after the wrong folks. I really take offense when they try to make Airbnb the scapegoat. It’s just politics. They’re not talking to hosts about this. No one’s ever called me.”

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