De Blasio administrator moves forward with plan to curb hotel development

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Mayor Bill de Blasio’s planning department is pushing ahead with a ‘dangerous’ proposal pushed by union backing that would stifle hotel development – a goal he has continued to pursue while trying to revive the economy and the city. city’s tourism industry after the sector was decimated by the pandemic.

The measure – which would require developers to obtain special permission across the city, regardless of zoning, to build new hotels – has for years been a primary focus of the Hospitality Trades Council, a long-time political ally. dates from the de Blasios who supported his fatal presidential candidacy.

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

“It will cripple Broadway, restaurants, stores and other businesses that cannot return 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 costly public approval process called the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). , which requires the green light from the city. Council, a traditionally pro-labour and increasingly development-skeptical body.

Enforcing the special permit restriction for new hotels in the five boroughs would keep tourists and business travelers from returning, hampering the Big Apple’s hospitality rebound, critics of the potential move say. .

A representative from the Real Estate Board of New York lambasted the proposal, citing a heartbreaking study that predicted the hotel hurdle would lead to the loss of 75,000 permanent jobs – and the creation of hotels lagging behind demand that will soon increase. Additionally, 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 revenue, the real estate group’s executive said.

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

“The 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 – backed by careful analysis – justify it.”

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

One study predicted that the hotel barrier would result in 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 proponents of implementing the hotel hurdle across the city — a requirement that has been implemented in some parts of the city — say it gives New Yorkers a fighting chance to fend off potentially unwanted hotels.

“I think special hotel permits are smart policy. It gives New Yorkers a voice where they currently have none,” said Councilman 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 is more hotels.”

“We want New Yorkers to have more of a say in what’s been happening in their communities, not less.”

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

“Over the past few years, we’ve seen an overgrowth of hotels around New York City that don’t fulfill their obligations as good neighbors to local residents,” Adams said Wednesday in a prepared statement. “We need a fair process that allows for input from local stakeholders and city leaders to ensure that new hotels serve the community and do not compromise the quality of life or public safety of the surrounding community.

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

the sun sets over the Manhattan and One World Trade Center skyline in New York City on March 8, 2021
The likely next 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 neighborhoods rezoned under his town hall, such as Midtown East, the Garment District and Inwood. In 2018, the Planning Commission and Council approved a proposal to require a special permit for hotels in areas set aside for light industry.

If passed by the Planning Commission and City Council, there would be no hotel construction as of right in the city, meaning that for every new hotel the developer would be required to apply for the authorization of the town hall and the Council, whatever the zoning. on the land where they want to build.

This process is moot, when it comes to hotels, as the special permit requirement has not yet resulted in a hotel. No hotels have been approved and then built in areas where a special permit is needed to build one, according to the Planning Department.

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, an agency spokesperson said Wednesday. This project is still in the community council consultation process.

Ahead of the hearing, a former spokesman for the city’s planning body tore up the special amendment authorizing the hotel text, calling it a ‘poorly conceived’ idea that would tarnish de Blasio’s legacy .

The sun sets over the midtown Manhattan skyline on April 06, 2021 as seen from Weehawken, New Jersey
If passed, there would be no hotel construction as of right in the city.
John Smith/VIEWpress

“The special hotel permit is as badly designed as the mayor’s presidential campaign and far more damaging,” former spokeswoman Rachaele Raynoff said in a statement. Tweeter.

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

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

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

“If you look over the years at the community concerns 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 that we’re talking about, a lot of activity of one type, some hotels mean a different type, but anyway you cut it out, there’s been real concern from the community about the impact, the traffic, parking, whatever be.”

Additional reporting by Nolan Hicks and Nicholas Conca

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