De Blasio administrator moves forward with plan to curb hotel development

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Mayor Bill de Blasio’s planning department is pushing forward with a “dangerous” proposal driven by union support that would stifle hotel development – a goal it has continued to pursue while trying to revive the economy and tourism industry in the city after the area was decimated by the pandemic.

The measure – which would require developers to obtain special permission throughout the city, regardless of zoning, to build new hotels – has for years been a primary goal of the Hotel Trades Council, a long-standing political ally. date of de Blasio who supported his discomfort. presidential candidacy doomed to failure.

“This proposal is New York’s big F-you to the rest of the world, saying, ‘Don’t come here,’” architect Gene Kauffman said Wednesday during a hearing on the hotel building’s barrier .

“It will cripple Broadway, restaurants, stores, and other businesses that can’t go back to their old levels,” Kauffman said.

The restriction, which would be codified as a textual amendment to the zoning code, requires builders to go through a lengthy and expensive public approval process called the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP ), which requires a green light from the city. Council, a body traditionally pro-worker and increasingly skeptical of development.

Enforcement of the special permission restriction for new hotels in the five boroughs would prevent tourists and business travelers from returning, hampering the hospitality rebound of the Big Apple, critics of the decision say. potential.

A representative of the Real Estate Board of New York blasted the proposal, citing a heart-wrenching study that predicted the hotel hurdle would result in the loss of 75,000 permanent jobs – and the creation of hotels that lag behind the growing demand. soon increase for them. In addition, the city would lose about $ 10 billion in economic activity in non-hotel spending over the next 15 years due to reduced tourism and reduced tax revenues, the head of the real estate group said.

“The amendment to the text would stifle several industries that have brought jobs, income and growth opportunities to the five boroughs,” said Basha Gerhards, senior vice president of planning for the large homeowners and builders lobby, during the hearing of the Planning Commission on Wednesday.

“The town planning commission should disapprove of this action, or if it intends to go ahead, drastically reduce the scope of this dangerous action so that it only applies to the extent that the facts – supported by careful analysis – justify it. “

Paul Selver, a land use lawyer at the white shoe firm Kramer Levin, said the draft amendment the Planning Commission is considering “does not serve a legitimate planning purpose.”

People fight their way with the Empire State Building in the background on April 06, 2021 in New York City.
A study predicted that the hotel barrier would lead to the loss of 75,000 permanent jobs.
John Smith / VIEWpress via Getty Images

“It’s not a process that should be used for the hotel,” he said. “It shouldn’t be put in place for hotel development, because it will actually stop hotel development.”

But supporters of the citywide hotel barrier implementation – a requirement that has been implemented in parts of the city – say it gives New Yorkers a chance to fend off potentially unwanted hotels.

“I think special permits for hotels are a smart policy. It gives New Yorkers a say where they currently have none at all, ”said City Councilor Justin Brannan, a Democrat who represents Bay Ridge. “My neighborhood needs a lot of things, but I’ve never heard anyone suggest that what we really need are more hotels.

“We want New Yorkers to have more say in what happened in their communities, and not less.”

Despite criticism from some business and real estate executives, the likely next mayor Eric Adams, currently Brooklyn Borough President, maintains his support for the “smart” decision.

“In recent years, we have seen an excessive proliferation of hotels around New York City that fail to meet their obligations as good neighbors to local residents,” Adams said Wednesday in a prepared statement. “We need a fair process that allows local stakeholders and city leaders to ensure that new hotels serve the community and do not harm the quality of life or public safety of the surrounding community.

“Requiring a public review of new hotels through a special permit is a smart way to advance the interests of New York residents, tourists and workers.”

the sun sets over the rooftops of Lower Manhattan and One World Trade Center in New York City on March 8, 2021
The next likely mayor Eric Adams maintains his support for the “smart” decision.
Gary Hershorn / Getty Images

De Blasio’s planning department included the requirement for a special permit for hotels in dezoned areas under his town hall, such as Midtown East, Garment District and Inwood. In 2018, the town planning commission and city council approved a proposal to require a special permit for hotels in areas zoned for light manufacturing.

If passed by the town planning commission and city council, there would be no hotel construction as of right in the city, which means that for each new hotel, the developer would be required to apply for l authorization from the town hall and council, regardless of the zoning. in the lot where they want to build.

This process is theoretical, when it comes to hotels, as the requirement of a special permit has not yet resulted in a hotel, as none of them have been approved and built in areas where a special permit is required to build one, according to the city’s planning ministry.

Only one developer – the potential builders of the Commodore project at 175 Park Ave – has applied for a special permit in areas where a special permit has been applied, a spokesperson for the agency said on Wednesday. This project is still in the community council consultation process.

Ahead of the hearing, a former spokesperson for the city’s planning body tore up the change to the hotel’s special permission text, calling it a ‘ill-conceived’ idea that would tarnish Blasio’s legacy .

The sun sets over the skyline of Midtown Manhattan on April 6, 2021 as seen from Weehawken, New Jersey
If passed, there would be no legal hotel construction in the city.
John Smith / VIEWpress

“The special hotel permit is as ill-conceived as the mayor’s presidential race and far more damaging,” former spokeswoman Rachael Raynoff said in a Tweeter.

“If it goes as proposed, he will be remembered not for the universal pre-K, but for the stunted growth of an industry which employs tens of thousands of people and is an economic engine for the city,” said she declared.

De Blasio defended himself against accusations that he advanced the reduction of development out of loyalty to a union allied in the Hotel Trades Council – whose members gave him 70% of his campaign donations. Democratic presidential election of the mayor of 2020 after having approved it in June 2019.

He insisted that his planning department was moving forward with hotel regulations because “community input makes sense.”

“If you look over the years at the concerns of the community about different developments, different facilities, hotels have always been one of the things that people really care about because it brings a lot more activity,” de Blasio said. during a virtual press briefing on April 28.

“And most of the hotels we’re talking about, a lot of activities of one type, some hotels it means a different type, but in any case there has been real concern from the community about the impact, the traffic, parking, whatever. to be.”

Additional reports by Nolan Hicks and Nicholas Conca


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