May 16, 2016 By Christian Murray
Defying the wishes of Community Board 2 and Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, the Board of Standards and Appeals has given the all clear to a developer to construct a 17-story hotel building at 32-45 Queens Blvd.
The BSA’s approval stems from the YMCA’s application to transfer commercial air rights to Fongtar, a Bronx-based developer that owns a 10,000 square foot lot next door to the YMCA’s Long Island City facility, which intends to construct a hotel.
The YMCA needed the approval of the BSA to modify its existing variance in order for it to sell its air rights. The BSA had to weigh in on the variance since the Queens Boulevard facility was only allowed to be built in the first place as a result of a zoning waiver.
The April 5 approval by the BSA now permits Fongtar to build a hotel three times the size of what would have been allowed on the site without the air rights transfer.
Frank Chen, the director of Fongtar, said the company plans to start construction in about six months.
The five BSA board members unanimously approved the YMCA’s application to modify its variance. Meanwhile, in March, every Community Board 2 member rejected it.
“I think the BSA has made the wrong decision,” Van Bramer said. “The BSA often rules against the wishes of the local community and local elected officials, and this is another example of that.”
“A 17-story tower on Queens Boulvard is not something many people including myself think is a good idea or is consistent with the character of the area,” Van Bramer said. “It’s going to tower over the two-story YMCA and it also replaces a two-story building.”
Van Bramer said that he was disappointed with the YMCA of Greater New York, which engineered the nearly $2 million deal, as opposed to the operators of the Long Island City facility. He said the Queens Boulevard location will only receive $250,000 of the YMCA’s windfall, which will be directed to new locker rooms.
Pat O’Brien, Community Board 2 Chair, said at the Board’s March meeting that the public was being asked to absorb an unnecessary hotel significantly larger than it would have been.
“We don’t need more hotels and there is concern that as the economy shifts that underutilized hotels owned by for-profit individuals turn into other things not as desirable,” O’Brien said at the time, likely alluding to recent conversions of hotels into homeless shelters around western Queens.
He said that the development was of no real benefit to the community.
Without the transfer of air rights, Fongtar would have only been permitted to build 20,000 square feet of hotel space (double the lot size)—or about five stories.
However, the YMCA, which is on a 40,000-square-foot site and is being used as a community facility, still carries with it the right to develop 80,000 square feet (double the lot size) of space for a hotel.
The YMCA, with the BSA’s blessing, has sold 40,000 square feet of air rights to Fongtar.
Fongtar is able to build 60,000 square feet of hotel space, instead of 20,000 square feet.
The 17-story building will include 14 stories of hotel space and three stories of medical offices, which will occupy the top three floors.
The hotel will consist of 154 rooms and will have 18 parking spots, according to Fongtar.