LETTER: Small Jersey City businesses ‘are reaping the benefits’ of Airbnb, laundromat owners say

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In a letter to the editor, the owners of the Time to Wash Laundromat in Jersey City say that small local businesses “are reaping the benefits” of having Airbnb in their communities.

Photo via Google Maps.

Dear Editor,

Over the last four years, tourism has boomed in Jersey City—thanks in no small part to home sharing—and small businesses are reaping the benefits.

The more visitors that come to our community, the more dollars that flow into our local economy, from our restaurants to our shops to our laundromats.

But the recent ordinance to restrict the short-term rental industry, pushed through by the City Council and Mayor Fulop, is poised to reverse the growth Jersey City has enjoyed and will leave local business owners scrambling to fill the gap.

In the aftermath of the ordinance, much of the focus has been on the damage the ordinance will inflict on local residents who share their properties and are now at risk of losing an important source of income, but local businesses stand to lose out on a vital, growing customer base too.

As small business owners and long-time residents of Jersey City, this new law is putting our livelihoods at risk.

To make matters worse, our concerns have either been overlooked or wrongfully discounted.

Despite our repeated testimony to the contrary, one councilmember erroneously claimed that the economic effects of short-term rentals in our communities have been vastly overstated, when we know the opposite to be true.

Rather than consult us, elected officials have turned their backs, choosing instead to use this type of rhetoric and misinformation to poison a much-needed rational and comprehensive conversation about our city’s future and how regulations can play a role in both protecting industry and local interests.

We have seen this positive impact with our own eyes. Since our city opened the door to short-term rentals in 2015, the tourism map has expanded into every corner of our city, including through the doors of our laundromat in Greenville.

For new businesses, the built-in customer base generated by the surge in local tourism makes getting off the ground all the easier, while local institutions are able to grow and prosper.

Nearby New York has also benefited from a similar boon; HR&A found that short-term rentals through Airbnb generated $632 million in economic activity and supported 4,580 jobs citywide in 2013 alone.

More importantly, it is the Jersey City homeowners that are responsible for driving their guests to our storefronts.

These residents understand and preach the value of supporting small businesses because they care about our community – their community – and seeing it succeed. When they lift us up, we all feel the boost.

Collectively, we have each met and served countless visitors, many of whom were only able to stay in Jersey City because of the affordable accommodations available through platforms like Airbnb.

And yet the city is prepared to turn its back on this indispensable economic driver at the expense of its residents, businesses and local economy.

It’s nearly impossible to calculate in hard dollars and cents what we will lose under this ordinance, should the short-term rentals in our neighborhoods close down, and a million questions run through our minds as we predict the possibilities.

Will tourism be once again confined to the hotels in Downtown Jersey City? Will the growth that our city has experienced transform overnight into decline?

The reality is that we can’t just wait and see – there’s far too much on the line. Instead, we are taking action.

The short-term rental community, backed by Airbnb, is in the middle of a referendum campaign to repeal this ordinance and start fresh by passing fair laws that will regulate the industry rather than kill it. We all need to do our part by signing their petition to help them qualify to bring this issue to the people this November.

For years our neighbors have supported us by sending guests to our businesses and now it’s our turn to return the favor and stand up for them.

We hope that all Jersey City residents will join us in fighting for our shared future.

Tierra Chandler and Daryl Young
Time to Wash Laundromat owners