McSam settles claim at stalled Bronx hotel

TRD New York /
Aug.August 05, 2008 03:16 PM

McSam Hotel Group said it has settled a damage claim related to a Comfort Inn project that had drawn complaints from the community in the Bronx section of Norwood, but construction delays continue due to an unresolved stop work order.

The Department of Buildings placed a stop work order on the property at 3070 Webster Avenue last October, related to construction work that it says was done without proper permits. The DOB also states that an adjacent home was damaged.

A concrete wall was built without a permit, DOB records show, and McSam has since paid a $500 fine, but the department says on its Web site that the project still has not been fully brought into compliance.

Gary Wisinski, chief operating officer of McSam Hotels, said the company has recently settled claims by the nearby homeowner for an undisclosed amount, and that McSam’s architectural firm was working to resolve the remaining issues surrounding the delay.

“It’s in the hands of the Department of Buildings,” Wisinski said.

The homeowners, Virginia Hakemian and her brother Harold, said that construction at the Comfort Inn site cause flooding in their basement and major water damage.

McSam officials did not have a timetable for when construction on the Comfort Inn would resume.

McSam, led by prolific hotel developer Sam Chang, has faced strong community opposition since proposing the project in 2005. The proposed Comfort Inn would be the company’s first major hotel project in the Bronx.

McSam has more than 5,000 hotel rooms in its development pipeline.

Finance Department records show that McSam bought the site in January 2005 for $550,000.

Officials from Community Board 7 and local politicians have opposed the 48-room hotel, saying the property would attract illicit activity and accusing McSam officials of heavy-handed tactics.

“There hasn’t been a lot of cooperation between Mr. Chang and the community,” said Greg Faulkner, chairman of Community Board 7. “We understand we are likely to see this thing built. We hoping that all the things we predicted are wrong.”

Pat Jones, a lawyer for McSam Hotels, attended a number of meetings with local politicians, including Bronx Borough President Adolpho Carrion, whose office has also opposed the project.

Barbara Stronczer, a member of Community Board 7 and organizer of many of the protests against McSam, said that the community would have been better off with an annex to the school, affordable housing or housing for senior citizens.

The neighborhood is zoned mainly for light industry, and has a number of gas stations, repair shops, a few homes and a nearby public school.

Faulkner said the board has been in talks with the city Planning Department on rezoning part of Webster Avenue to allow for additional commercial development in the area, which is located near Fordham University, The Bronx Zoo and the New York Botanical Garden. The major question remains whether to have high-density commercial zoning to attract big box stores or some form of lower density development.

“The board is having an internal debate about which way to go,” Faulkner said.

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