Tracking illegal hotels in New York

Being on WNYC’s Data News team means that sometimes I do my own data-driven stories, and sometimes I get to work with other reporters in the newsroom on their ideas that involve data. Which I love. I help them think about what kinds of data might help tell the story they want to tell, where they might be able to find it, and then help them analyze it once they get it.

My colleague Ilya Marritz got a list of inspections of illegal hotels. Those are often short-term rentals through sites like Air BnB. Ilya, developer Alan Palazzolo and I had some fun sorting through the data, and came up with a nice little story and set of graphics.

As Ilya said, it can get weird out there.

Here are excerpts from some of the more unusual reports obtained by WNYC:

“3 Unidentified Females Asians Stated They Arrived Yesterday And Are Leaving Later This Week. They Pay $12 Per Night And Called The Place The ‘Family Hotel.’”

“Tennant [sic]…In 5a She Has Lived There For 5 Years And Does Not Rent Out. She Stated That There Is An Ongoing Dispute With Her Neighbor In 4a Who Constantly Calls Police On Her. Unable To Determine Transient Use.”

“Upon Arrival 1 Male White Refused To Identify Self To Anyone. Also Denied Entry To Buildings And Fire Department To Conduct A Safety Inspection. Male White Video Taped Interview, Was Belligerent And Would Not Give Any Information To Show That Would Show That He Had Permission And Or Authority To Be On Premises.”

“Unidentified Woman Opened Door And After Saying She Did Not Live There Attempted To Slam Door On Identified Police Officer. Woman In Back Screamed To Her Dont Let Them In. Male Came And Id Self As Owner Of Multiple Apts And Said We Should Be Going After Real Criminals Not What They Are Doing.”

(As a side note, this was a great example of when a big document dump can be used both to assemble figures and as a great source of narrative detail.)

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