By David Brand
Despite opposition from some community boards, the Queens Borough Board voted 11-5 in favor of the M1 Hotel Zoning Text Amendment at a meeting at Borough Hall Monday night.
If passed by the City Council, the measure would amend the zoning rules to require developers to obtain a City Planning Commission Special Permit in order to build new hotels within M1 districts — also known an Light Manufacturing districts.
Council Member Robert Holden and representatives from Community Boards 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 voted yes for the amendment. Council Member Paul Vallone and representatives from Community Boards 5, 7, 8 and 9 voted no. Council Members Peter Koo and Barry Grodenchik abstained.
The vote was advisory but will likely influence how the Queens City Council delegation votes during the binding vote by the full City Council.
There has been a surge in hotel development inside M1 districts since 2010, according to the Department of City Planning (DCP). Nearly a third of all hotel rooms in the development pipeline will be built in M1 districts “due to a combination of rapid growth in tourism in New York City over the last decade and the current M1 zoning framework, which is particularly well suited to hotel construction,” the DCP reports.
In a 2017 statement, the city reported that over 75 percent of hotel rooms built in M1 districts outside Manhattan were located in four “clusters,” not including the area immediately surrounding JFK Airport. Long Island City and Jamaica are the two areas with the highest number of new M1 hotels. North Brooklyn and Gowanus round out the top four.
The Borough Board was first briefed on the proposed text amendment at its meeting on October 16, 2017 as part of DCP’s environmental review process. In May, DCP presented its proposal to the Board on May 14.
In June, Community Board 5 voted unanimously to opposed the zoning text amendment because it includes a stipulate that enable hotels to be built in M1 zones without a Special Permit if they have a “public use,” including “temporary housing assistance or shelter to homeless individuals and families.”
In 2016, large groups of protestors from Community District 5, demonstrated outside a Holiday Inn Express in Maspeth, where the Department of Homeless Services placed some homeless families who could not fit inside the city;s crowded shelter system. Current City Council Member and former CB5 Board Member Robert Holden helped organize and lead the protests. The demonstrators also traveled to Brooklyn and yelled insults outside the home of Steven Banks, the Department of Social Services Commissioner.
The Queens Chronicle reported on the June Community Board 5 meeting.
“They spent so much angst saying this kind of use hurts the character of the neighborhood, so why would they leave it open for transient hotels?” said Land Use Committee Chairman Walter Sanchez, according to the Chronicle. “We think the exemption undermines the stated intent of the amendment.”