2018-11-21 / Editorials

Hotels Have Brought Opportunity To LIC Residents, Don’t Jeopardize It

BY REV CORWIN S. MASON, Community Church of Astoria

Long Island City residents have more than just Amazon to worry about. While many LIC residents are rightly concerned about missing out on the estimated 25,000 new jobs to be created by Amazon’s HQ2, it also deserves mention that a costly new hotel building permit would deprive low-income and working-class LIC residents of even more employment opportunities.

Currently, City Council is weighing a resolution which would force hotel projects in light manufacturing districts, including parts of Long Island City, to undergo a lengthy and costly review process. While City Council and the de Blasio administration have focused on the fact the recent tourism boom has moved hotel development into areas historically dominated by light manufacturing, they have repeatedly failed to note the incredible benefits the hotel wave has brought to many of these areas, including Long Island City.

At the moment it seems inevitable the new permit process resolution will pass. In light of this, I am asking City Council to exclude 21st Street to Vernon Boulevard, from 40th Avenue to 36th Avenue in Long Island City, where many hotels are currently being developed, from the new special permit process. In recent years, low-income, working-class residents have been able to make incredible gains thanks to the hotel wave and City Council needs to support Long Island City’s economic momentum instead of stymying it.

When we look at the benefits of hotel development in areas like Long Island City, the math is clear. While many light manufacturing businesses, like your mom-and-pop metal shop, regularly employ around five people, a recently built hotel provides around 80 new jobs. When comparing new jobs in light manufacturing and those brought by hotel development, we see hotels bring more jobs 16 to 1. These new jobs include positions in housekeeping, maintenance, and front-desk reception. As well, these positions are available and accessible to residents of low-income neighborhoods immediately without needing highly specialized training. This is without even mentioning the construction jobs available while the hotel is in the process of being developed.

Long Island City has benefited, not only from the many new jobs for its residents, but also from the gains local businesses have made getting a cut of the city’s tourism boom. Thanks to the hotel industry, Long Island City is growing and its local residents are reaping a majority of the benefits. Without fear of being pushed out by sudden gentrification, the hotel wave is growing the area in a way where locals are included, not excluded, from this prosperity.

If this new permit process takes effect, we would see an inevitable slowdown in hotel development for Long Island City. Moreover, these developers could take the opportunities from the tourism boom elsewhere.

And if they do, how can City Council defend the outcome? If the de Blasio administration really wants to keep its promise to protect the interests of low-income New Yorkers, it should be encouraging hotel development in areas such as Long Island City. There is a narrative being offered that manufacturing areas cannot coexist with tourism and hotel development, when in reality these developments increase interest in the area and help bring business to local mom-and-pop shops. Our leaders need to understand that hotel development helps grow and support low-income blue-collar neighborhoods.

I am asking City Council to not halt the economic momentum brought by the hotel wave in Long Island City. I implore City Council to allow the residents of Long Island City to continue to benefit from the new jobs and business brought by increased tourism. Once again, I am asking City Council to exclude 21st Street to Vernon Boulevard, from 40th Avenue to 36th Avenue, from the new special permit process.

Mayor de Blasio, please keep your promise to working-class New Yorkers and allow Long Island City (Queensbridge and Ravenswood) to keep on thriving.

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