Hotel development blocker now one step from de Blasio’s desk

Mandate for special permits clears City Council committee

Mayor Bill de Blasio, Hotel Trades Council's Rich Maroko and Council member Rafael Salamanca (Getty, iStock)
Mayor Bill de Blasio, Hotel Trades Council's Rich Maroko and Council member Rafael Salamanca (Getty, iStock)

A proposal to further restrict hotel development in the city is on the cusp of final approval.

The City Council’s Committee on Land Use on Monday voted for a zoning text amendment that will require developers to obtain a special permit before building a hotel or expanding an existing one by 20 percent or more. A few modifications were made, so it will need to be reviewed by the City Planning Commission before heading to a full City Council vote.

The text amendment has been criticized by real estate attorneys and developers, who argue that it has no valid land use rationale. Opponents have pointed to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s relationship with the Hotel Trades Council as an impetus for the policy. A lawsuit filed in October claims the text amendment is a giveaway to the union.

Council members are not inclined to wait for the litigation to be resolved because most of them must leave office at year-end, as must de Blasio.

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For its part, the administration has said the text amendment is aimed at supporting “more predictable development” and limiting “the extent to which a hotel use may impair the future use or development of the surrounding area.” The proposal does exempt some hotels, including those that were planned prior to the text amendment’s approval and are ready for occupancy within six years, as well as those that will shelter homeless individuals.

The Committee on Land Use also signed off on an exemption for certain hotels in the Midtown East theater subdistrict.

The city has already made special permits mandatory in a few areas, including Midtown East, the Garment District and light manufacturing zones. City Hall scrapped a similar proposal for Union Square in favor of pursuing the citywide version.

The text amendment is one of the de Blasio administration’s final land use priorities, along with rezoning Gowanus and Soho. The proposals are expected to pass before the end of the year.