UPDATE Dec. 4, 10 A.M.:
Airbnb announced today that they will take legal action against the New Jersey booking guest who hosted the gathering.
According to a press release, the company notified the guest Thursday, Dec. 3, of its intent to press charges, alleging violation of Airbnb's Community Standards and Terms of Service, nuisance and that the guest had booked the listing under false pretenses.
The guest was also banned from the Airbnb app.
The announcement comes just a few months after Airbnb announced it would ban all parties and events at listings rented through Airbnb. The Aug. 20 announcement noted that hosts or guests that try to skirt party rules would be met with potential legal action.
See original story below:
A red plastic cup could be seen on the front lawn of 51 Hawkins Lane in Brookhaven late Tuesday afternoon – where just hours before, an estimated 300-400 people gathered for what had the potential to be a COVID-19 superspreader event.
During a Suffolk County press conference Tuesday, Suffolk Police Chief Stuart Cameron said that around 12:25 a.m. Nov. 30, police responded to several emergency calls from residents near the roughly 5,000 square-foot home.
Callers reported suspicious and racing vehicles and increased traffic near in the area, Cameron said. Suffolk County executive Steve Bellone said one of the 911 dialers was the homeowner - who was renting out the 9.7 acre property on home rental app Airbnb. Cameron said the homeowner had informed the renter, from New Jersey, that gatherings over 10 people were not permitted.
The homeowner estimated 500 people attended.
Police from the Fifth and Sixth Precincts responded to the scene to disband the mass gathering, Cameron said. Police were on site for over four hours, and it took a while to clear the area because it was on a dead end.
The party was broken up before many individuals exited their vehicles, Cameron said, so the number of people who exposed themselves to the virus was low.
Cameron said it’s unclear if the attendees were locals or came from out-of-state.
Police intend to press charges if they can identify those responsible. The individuals could be charged with criminal nuisance in the second degree, a misdemeanor, or violating Public Health Law. Fines for COVID-19 violations can range up to $1,500. The property is currently listed on Airbnb as “The Castle of Brookhaven,” and costs roughly $399 per night.
Bellone said people cannot simply disregard Public Health rules by renting a home.
‘We have worked too hard, we have overcome too much, to allow some really selfish and reckless individuals to really set back our efforts to continue to protect people's health and move our economic recovery forward,” Bellone said.
However, Bellone said “egregious” violations like these are rare. The biggest spreading instances are small gatherings — among friends and families.
“There’s a comfort level, and they’re less likely to take necessary precautions, to wear masks, to socially distance,” Bellone said.
The gathering comes just a few weeks after Suffolk police broke up a Farmingville party in October with 200-300 attendees.
The investigation on the gathering is ongoing, and more information will become available as the investigation moves forward, Bellone said.