City Council Committee Approves Special Hotel Permit Proposal

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

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

The city council’s land use committee voted on Monday for an amendment to the zoning text that will require developers to obtain a special permit before building a hotel or expanding an existing hotel by 20% or more. Some modifications have been made, so it will have to be examined by the town planning commission before going to the full vote of the municipal council.

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

Council members are not inclined to wait for the dispute to be resolved as most of them are due to step down at the end of the year, as is de Blasio.

For its part, the administration said the amendment to the text was intended to support “more predictable development” and to limit “the extent to which hotel use can harm the future use or development of the surrounding area.” . The proposal exempts some hotels, including those that were planned before the text amendment was approved and are ready to be occupied within six years, as well as those that will house the homeless.

The Land Use Committee also approved an exemption for certain hotels in the Midtown East Theater Sub-District.

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

Amending the text is one of the last land use priorities of the Blasio administration, along with the rezoning of Gowanus and Soho. The proposals should be adopted before the end of the year.

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