A group of Brooklyn activists who recently peddled Artisanal Roach Bombs ($15.99) and Hand-Fried Chicken Cutlet Sandwiches ($13.50) at Jesse's Deli, a corner bodega in Boerum Hill currently facing an alleged 2.5x rent increase, has now posted the 7'x4' space in its front window on Airbnb—for $329 per night.
"Unique property on Atlantic Avenue in gentrifying section of Brooklyn," reads the listing. "The cozy semi-private 7x4 bedroom with lofty 14 ft ceilings is separated from the deli by a Doritos and Lays chip stand and book shelf.... Chef-style kitchen with professional toaster, meat slicer, and microwave. Also includes coffee maker."
According to Jesse's, the proposed rent hike, from $4,000 to $10,000, is still on the table. A store manager who identified himself as Mike told us this morning, "We're fighting it [the rent hike] in court right now, so it's up to the judge. We'll be here for about 5 or 6 more months, at least."
Brooklyn activists Doug Cameron and Tommy Noonan say the $329/night Airbnb listing is the exact price the deli would need to charge in order to cover this new lease. Interested parties won't actually be able to stay overnight in the window.
"You can just sit there for free and take a selfie of yourself protesting," Noonan told us, although donations are being accepted.
"The donations would go to help Jesse’s with their moving expenses, and then if there is money left over, support further prankster activism aimed at lowering regular citizens' rents in New York," Cameron added.
Cameron and Noonan helped Jesse and his son Muhammad organize their artisanal rent-hike sale in June, soon after concerned neighbors circulated a petition encouraging the deli's longtime landlord Bilger Design & Development to "offer the owners of Jesse's a lease with terms that make it possible for them to remain in the building."
For this latest stunt, customers are encouraged to lie down in the bed, and post pictures to Instagram and Facebook with the hashtag #AirBnBodega.
According to Noonan, the room has been "available" on Airbnb and accompanying AirBnBodega.com since Monday. He estimates that about 30 people have come through so far.
Asked if he had heard from Airbnb, Noonan said that Cameron is "friends with one of the guys" at the company. However, "I wouldn't say we have 100% permission."
"We're actually thinking about getting a host to stay there for a few days," he said. "Almost like a bed-and-breakfast host who would come in and make the bed and hand people fliers. We'd dress them up like a hostess."
In addition to raising awareness about the situation at Jesse's, Cameron and Noonan are campaigning for the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SBJSA)—City Council legislation that would insure certain protections for commercial business tenants, including a minimum 10-year lease for commercial units. They've branded their campaign Bill de Bodega.
Brooklyn Paper reports that 23 councilmembers have sponsored the bill, and only three more are needed for the legislation to pass. In July, Cameron and Noonan hung signage along a block of small Latino businesses in Washington Heights on Broadway, urging passersby to use their new hashtag: "Tell @BillDeBlasio to support the #BillDeBodega."
Tomorrow, Noonan says that he will be erecting a "hand-carved" wooden sign outside of Jesse's, which will stand on the sidewalk during regular business hours. The sign reads "Jesse's Deli Bed and Breakfast / AirBnBodega" and depicts a deli sandwich sleeping in a bed next to nightstand with coffee and a bag of chips on it.
"Next we're going to be inviting people to come in," Noonan said. "We're going to be inviting Bill de Blasio. Maybe we could get him to pay the $329 a night. Or just have him take a selfie."
The mayor, who supported a piece of legislation from 2008 that would have established "fair negotiations" for commercial lease renewals, has yet to voice his support for SBJSA.
"We were talking about inviting the Pope or something, but I don't know if he'll be able to stop by," Noonan added.
Asked whether he believed the Airbnb listing would help Jesse's case in court, Mike was noncommittal. "We're taking all the help we can get," he said. "We'll see what's going happen."
We have reached out to Bilger Design & Development for comment and will update with any additional information.