2008-11-26 / Features

Board 1 Calls For Hotel Construction Halt

BY RICHARD GENTILVISO

In a significant test of new zoning regulations in Dutch Kills, Community Board 1 unanimously rejected the completion of a 14-story hotel.

The developer, Wilshire Hospitality LLC, was issued a stop work order by the Department of Buildings on October 7 when new Dutch Kills zoning went into effect on the basis that the foundation was not complete.

The proposed hotel, on an L-shaped through lot located at 29-23 40th Rd. and 30-02 40th Ave., is limited to a maximum height of 125 feet under the new zoning regulations. However, the building is planned to rise to a height of 142 feet, 8 inches, which was permitted before the new zoning regulation went into effect.

Wilshire Hospitality said if their appeal and request for a building permit renewal was denied, the hotel would lose 24 rooms and two floors, resulting in a likely loss of a franchise agreement with Marriott International.

"We feel we've met the standard of substantial progress," said Stewart Beckerman of Slater & Beckerman LLP, representing Wilshire Hospitality. "The excavation is complete and there is substantial (43 percent complete) progress on the foundation."

Board Member George Stamatiades, speaking on behalf of the Dutch Kills Civic Association, disagreed. "You have not made substantial progress," Stamatiades said, calling the construction site a "hole in the ground". "Forty-three percent is not anywhere near substantial. You do not qualify. You knew very well putting in a foundation [before the zoning change] was almost near impossible, as it turned out to be."

Wilshire Hospitality bought the property in January 2008 and filed an application with the DOB to demolish the existing one-story building on Feb. 11, 2008. DOB issued the demolition permit on Apr. 14, 2008. A new building permit was issued by DOB on July 17, 2008.

Rezoning in Dutch Kills had been proposed for more than three years before the October enactment. "Were you aware of the zoning changes?" asked Board Member George Alexiou. "Yes," replied Beckerman.

City Councilmember Eric Gioia, in a letter to the board, said, "I write to strongly urge you to reject the appeal by Wilshire Hospitality, LLC to circumvent the zoning laws in Dutch Kills in order to build under the previous zoning regulations."

Gioia said, "Allowing Wilshire Hospitality to continue building under the old regulations will create a dangerous precedent for a neighborhood that has been already flooded with hotels."

Gloria Maloney, a member of the board of directors of the Dutch Kills Civic Association, said, "The ink isn't even dry on the zoning changes and already people are trying to circumvent it. This is a neighborhood where people live for 70 and 80 years. Children live here."

Beckerman said Wilshire Hospitality stands to lose $3 million and would be forced to abandon the project and sell the premises if the application was denied.

Noting the closing date of Mar. 8, 2008 on the property, Stamatiades said, "Your [financial] hardship is self-created."

In other business, a license to renew an unenclosed sidewalk cafe with 10 tables and 20 seats at Rack Cafe & Billiards, 19- 26 Steinway St., was approved.

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