New hotels would need community board OK under proposal

Legislation ‘needed to protect character of neighborhoods across this city.’ – Jumaane Williams

Councilman Jumaane Williams
Councilman Jumaane Williams

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.”

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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.”