Inside Hotel Toshi

The Brooklyn Paper
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Williamsurg’s Hotel Toshi has quietly grown into a popular destination for international tourists who want to stay in Brooklyn in a furnished apartment for as little as $100 a night.

The company has grown since its humble beginnings in 2001, when company President Robert Chan purchased and renovated a building on S. Eighth Street. He expanded his company by leasing apartments in several small Williamsburg buildings and renting them at nightly rates to a primarily international clientele.

But his interaction with tenants in rent-stabilized buildings convinced Chan to approach landlords of stalled condominium projects with his business plan.

At Hotel Toshi’s flagship at 808 Driggs Ave., the company manages about half of the building’s 35 units, while the other half are occupied by tenants with one-year leases.

The Department of Buildings visited the building dozens of times, investigating complaints about too many transient guests in Hotel Toshi. So far, the city has issued 25 violations for construction work without permits and all of them have been resolved.

But in the wake of several raids Williamsburg in March, Chan is concerned that the city could try to close one or more of the 18 buildings where his company operates — not that he thinks such a closure would be warranted.

“The city shuts down hostels because there is a danger to human life or they are not up to code,” said Chan. “My buildings do not pose any danger to human life.”

Not everyone agrees.

Long-term tenants at 808 Driggs have been mobilizing to pressure their landlord to kick Hotel Toshi out after complaining of raucous, late-night parties by the hotel’s guests.

At the same time, Brooklyn Legal Services and Los Sures took the landlord of a rent-stabilized building on S. Fourth Street to housing court after tenants threatened a rent-strike due to mold, utility problems, and the presence of a Hotel Toshi unit, which allegedly violates the city’s housing laws.

“Hotel Toshi is taking advantage of the situation,” said Legal Services attorney Jessica Fischweicher. “He knows. The addresses on his Web site don’t tell you where the building is. They’re hiding.”

Yet the international guests who stay at Hotel Toshi have mostly positive reviews on sites like TripAdvisor, saying the experience was “the best deal for my family” and its staff was “very helpful with questions,” particularly in the wake of “the volcano issue.”

A typical Hotel Toshi unit is spacious and fully furnished, with maid service like you’d find in any hotel.

Guests check in at a centralized office located in the basement of 808 Driggs before being dispatched by a local car service company to one of the hotel’s buildings.

If Chan has his way, and if the city backs off, more buildings could be on the way.

Eight years ago, it was a struggle to manage a few units in a six-story dilapidated building. Now, the owners of six different small condominiums are approaching him to launch a branch in their stalled and vacant buildings.

“They want me to be there for short term rentals before they can sell their units,” said Chan. “They’re trying to keep from being foreclosed upon and get as much money as they can so they can keep their head above water.”

Updated 5:18 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Restaurant from Williamsburg says:
I work at a small restaurant in the area and I can tell you that, if not for these tourist and vacationers or business guests the restaurant where I work would have long been out of business! these tourist are keeping our restaurant afloat and I spoke to several other neighborhood business who told me the same, this tourist are pouring into our local NYC economy millions in which a lot of these tourist told me that if not for these hotel apartments they would have not come to NYC for vacation, an average regular hotel in NYC if $300 - $400 a night for one small room!.
Furthermore, all these complaints by these “anonymous tenants” running to the press every second day is nonsense! a person who is coming to NYC for vacation or business for a short time is not looking to do any muggings or harm anyone, these people are in most part professionals who came here for vacation or business, the statistics are that 99.99% of all assaults or muggings are done by local tenants, vacationers are not looking to harm anyone, they came here for vacation, all these complaints are nonsense! they are obviously being done with someone with a hidden agenda or to extort money from their landlord!
May 5, 2010, 2:38 pm
toshi robert chan from nyc says:
toshi aka robert chan is a landlord in williamsburg, brooklyn that was collecting welfare checks by scamming the government. he owns two buildings and runs hotel toshi and pays illegal immigrants $5 hr to clean up the illegal hotel rooms he operates.

see the article in the link below.

i stayed in his slum he calls hotels earlier this month and he and his teenage employees made us wait hours to check in while suggesting that we move to another location because the room we booked was not available. we waited another hour for the car service he arranged and the car took us to the wrong location.

do not believe toshi also known as robert chan and his company. no wonder new york city is cracking down on him and his scamming business with a new law shutting down illegal hotels/hostels.

Oct. 28, 2010, 9:44 am
C Bozner from Outside NYC says:
Hi "toshi robert chan" above:

Your posting appears here under a fake name, so why did you post under the name David Stone on the site? What do you have to hide? Why should anyone believe you when you clearly feel free to lie about who you are?

And why are you on such a crusade against Robert Chan other than getting some seemingly bad service (if your story is true, and if it is you really are going out of your way to burn the guy)?

I have been researching the Hotel Toshi topic, and find your exact same posting on almost every site dedicated to the subject, but often with different names for the author. And all feature a conclusion that NYC is specifically going after Toshi which of course is not true at all.

So who are you exactly, David Stone?

FYI - I do not work for Toshi nor am I a friend of his.
Nov. 2, 2010, 6:27 pm
patrice from soho says:
Hotel Toshi, AKA: Toshi Apartments is an urban blight. The people who live in these buildings aren't anonymous. They happen to be very real and their concerns are valid, as well as their complaints. I live in Manhattan, and know for a fact, that some of these people are members of the West Side Neighborhood Alliance. My wife and I have watched our next door neighbors fall under siege by Toshi. The owner of that property is an evident creep who is making everyone's life pure hell. If it were legal then they wouldn't be harassing and literally threatening people who dare to object and complain. Toshi, is intent on doing a "Clean out of rent controlled and rent stabilized tenants". He is nobody's friend and these landlords aren't nice guys. They play very rough and dirty. The city needs to go after Toshi, and as well, the landlords. Driving decent people out of their homes is not what NYC is about. Maybe, if you lived in a building where Toshi is operating you might be a bit more empathetic. Toshi and the landlords he is in bed with are ripping off all of us, tourists and tax payers alike! I say good riddance to bad apples.
Nov. 16, 2010, 12:56 am
Christine from Williamsburg says:
I have a year lease in one of robert's buildings and the people who pass through the other units in my building don't really bother me at all unless they are upstairs and have hyper children. The floors are very thin. Poor construction is my guess. We have also had a reoccurring problem with water from the upstairs apt leaking into our, kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom. Their cleaning ladies replaced my down comforter with a foam filled one belonging to the hotel and all my efforts to recover it seem to fall on deaf ears. I'm frequently told someone will call me back and they never do. I don't know Robert/Toshi but I do know that the people he has working for him are incompetent. My name is not on the lease.
May 4, 2011, 3:41 pm

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