The Real Deal New York

New hotels would need community board OK under proposal

Legislation ‘needed to protect character of neighborhoods across this city.’ – Jumaane Williams
By Hiten Samtani | March 31, 2014 04:31PM

The phrase “as-of-right” may soon lose its meaning in New York hotel development. The New York City Council is considering giving local community boards a say in the construction of new hotels and hotel apartments, even if a developer has as-of-right permission to build a project.

The legislation was introduced March 12 by Councilman Jumaane Williams, who represents Brooklyn’s District 45 and chairs the Council’s Committee on Housing and Buldings, with the support of colleagues Margaret Chin, Corey Johnson, Peter Koo, Ritchie Torres and Helen Rosenthal.

The bill would require that developers add a statement to their applications for construction of new hotel projects that certifies that the project’s local community board “has completed their review of the plan.”

Individuals may submit testimony on the bill to the Council at a hearing Wednesday. A vote on the legislation will follow.

“This legislation is needed to protect character of neighborhoods across this city, as communities change faster than zoning,” Williams said in a statement to The Real Deal. “Whenever a hotel, with a large number of transient occupants, is built, consideration must be given to its impact on the people living in that neighborhood.”

Williams added that even if a development can be built as-of-right, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s in the neighborhood’s best interests.

“Communities should have knowledge and input on the location and scope of proposed hotels, and community boards represent the voice of residents in government.”

New York is seeing a hotel construction boom, with enough beds in the pipeline for 110,000 rooms by 2016, as TRD reported. Most of the development is taking place in Manhattan, but a sizable number of beds are also being built in the outer boroughs, as record streams of tourists and business travelers visit the city.

The proposal could be an impediment to that new construction, brokers and developers said. “It will slow hotel development down, absolutely,” said McSam Group CEO Sam Chang. “We [hoteliers] are creating so many jobs and so much tax revenue,” he said, and disrupting the as-of-right process would cause unnecessary delays.

“One of the things that makes the city work well is the as-of-right process,” said Massey Knakal Realty Services chairman Bob Knakal. “Not having the process encourages corruption and slows development down.”

City Center Real Estate’s Robert Shapiro said that the proposal, if it passed, would “prevent New York City from being competitive. We’ll be unable to create sufficient hotel product to meet demand here.”

  • GJohnson

    Good intentions. Bad idea. First of all it’s discriminatory as that it singles out hotel development. What about as-of-right luxury condos? What about as-of-right retail box store development? Shall this be applied to all categories of development? Or does this single out hotels. If so, that’s grossly unfair.
    As an advocate and former community board member, I appreciate community involvement, but I’ve seen measures taken by developers to sway community board votes. And by sway, I mean buy. Yes, it happens, and will become more pervasive should this be enacted, and should it spread to other forms of development.

    • realposter

      Are you sure the intentions are even good? Personally, I think this is all about getting “bought”.

    • Laura Risi Hofmann

      I don’t think this is discriminatory at all. There’s a big difference between box stores, luxury condos, and hotels. Hotels bring lots of transient people to the community. My community already has a homeless shelter, a few hotels, and a flea bag hotels. So to have the ability to comment before the community board sounds like a great way to limit the amount transients we deal with. There needs to be some sort of balance. I think the bill is a great idea.

      • GJohnson

        Box stores bring additional parking. Luxury condos bring gentrification. Hotels brings employment and tax revenue. Every development has it’s pros & cons. But having a non-elected body that’s comprised of appointed folks making decisions is potentially problematic. What isn’t clear is whether this proposal makes the determination by the community board binding or still advisory, as it is now. Based on my experience, there have been SEVERAL projects that the community board will rule against that still get the go-ahead due to the councilmember and the Borough President agreeing to the development. Happens ALL the time: Columbia, East River Plaza, Atlantic Yards, etc., etc., etc.

  • East 100

    More idiotic ideas from the City Council. Can we disband the Council already?

  • Rich guy

    I love this idea – as a real estate owner anything that can continue to block the addition of new units (more competition) is a good idea. My hope is that it will soon take 10 years to build a 20 unit building. Would be great for me. Thanks City Council – your check is in the mail.

  • realposter

    As quoted: “Not having the process encourages corruption”… Well sadly that’s the point. It’s the NY City Council. Ppl want their palms greased. Sad to see what NYC might revert to now.

  • Ron Edelatein

    Get used to our one term mayor! Prepare to replace him and all his cronies ASAP! Perhaps the negligent, tardy de Blasio will have all his appointee’s put into place before he is thrown out of office. This guy must go now!