Dec. 31, 2018 By Christian Murray
The City Council passed legislation Dec. 20 that will now make it much tougher for developers to build hotels in manufacturing zones.
The new law, which passed 47 to 1, requires hotel developers to obtain a special-permit—involving a lengthy public review process—to build in light manufacturing districts, known as M1 zones.
The Department of City Planning, which was behind the push to amend the zoning text, said it was necessary to make the change since there has been unfettered hotel development in M1 zones.
The department says that rampant hotel development in M1 zoning districts, which were permitted without public review, has created a myriad of problems. For instance, hotels have been driving some businesses out of some manufacturing zones.
The number of hotel rooms in Queens has nearly doubled in the past decade, according to City Planning. The borough had 6,500 rooms in 2007, which jumped to 12,264 by the first quarter 2017.
The zoning text amendment is likely to bring hotel development in M1 districts to an end, opponents of the legislation say.
“There will be zero applications,” Gene Kaufman, president of Gene Kaufman Architect, said. “It will now be a 5-year development cycle—with two years in the public review stage—and then they may not get it.”
Kaufman, whose firm has designed 83 hotels in New York, told the LICPost that many of the hotels built in M1 zones—particularly in Long Island City–have been of great benefit to tourists since room rates are modestly priced. He said that stunting future supply doesn’t make sense, since New York continues to grow as a tourist spot
“It’s a gift to Airbnb,” Kaufman said.
The text amendment contains some exemptions that have created controversy.
The first carve out exempts hotels that are developed “for a public use”—a category that includes homeless shelters. The provision also applies to existing buildings repurposed into shelters.
Another carve-out applies to mixed use districts—such as the Long Island City Mixed Use District, a roughly 40-block section from Hunters Point to Dutch Kills that includes residential and M1 zones. Many western Queens residents were opposed to the exemption. However, City Planning contends that hotels are not out of place in mixed use districts, since they cater to residential and commercial uses.
Initially, there were exemptions for sections of East Elmhurst, Ozone Park and Springfield Gardens, given their proximity to airports. However, those exemptions were taken out.
The text amendment will apply to developers who filed for building permits after April 23, 2018, the date the proposal was referred by City Planning for public review. Developers have three years to complete construction or obtain a certificate of occupancy from that date.
Community Board 2 voted to approve the amendment in June, although noted that City Planning should take a close look at the Long Island City Special District and the affect the exemption will have.