Queens Daily Eagle: Borough Board approves plan for hotel special permits

By: Jacob Kaye

July 15, 2021


The Queens Borough Board voted in favor of a new regulation that aims to create a more consistent framework for hotel development throughout the city on Tuesday.


The Hotel Special Permit text amendment would require potential hotel developers in areas of Queens and the city where hotel development is already allowed to apply for a special permit and have a public review before being approved.


The special permit process has existed in certain parts of the city for years now, though mostly in Manhattan. The special permit also already applies to hotel development in industrial zones, which exist throughout Queens including in Long Island City, Sunnyside and Woodside.


Currently, the process for hotel development varies from zone to zone. The special permit, if applied throughout the city, would create a more uniform approach to the development while also bringing in more community input, according to its supporters


Eleven of the borough’s 14 community boards voted in favor on Tuesday while two – Community Boards 1 and 2 – voted against. Community Board 13 did not have a representative at the meeting.


“Queens and the city as a whole needs smart development, especially when it comes to hotels,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards wrote on Twitter. “That’s what [the New York Department of City Planning’s] citywide hotel special permit offers a pathway toward.”


The hotel industry in New York City has seen record growth over the past 10 years. In 2009, there were 80,000 hotel rooms throughout the city. By 2019, that number had grown to 127,000. The hotel industry is one of the largest industries in the city, bringing in around $13 billion per year.


However, the hotel industry struggled throughout the pandemic and opponents of the plan argue that the text amendment would stifle growth in the industry. 


“This proposal would make hotels the only significant use that would need a special permit citywide,” said Moses Gates, the vice president of Housing and Neighborhood Planning at the Regional Plan Association, at a separate hearing on the amendment hosted by the City Planning Commission on Wednesday. “This would directly cost New Yorkers 19,000 jobs and over $1 billion in wages and have an unavoidable negative impact on the hospitality industry.” 


An architect who testified at Wednesday’s meeting said that by limiting the building of hotels, hotel developers would be discouraged from coming to New York.


“This proposed special permit will effectively stop all new hotel proposals,” said Gene Kaufman.  “This proposal is NYC’s big ‘F U’ to the rest of the world, saying, ‘don’t come here.’”


However, there are those in the industry who support the text amendment.


“The Hotel Association of New York City is in full support of the zoning text amendment for a special permit for all hotels in New York City,” Vijay Dandapani, the president of the Hotel Association of NYC, said in a statement to the Eagle.


If the City Planning Commission votes in favor of the proposal next week, the text amendment will be brought to the City Council.