Obstacles Loom for NYC Hotel Development

2 min

On Wednesday, the New York City Planning Commission (CPC) approved a citywide text amendment to the Zoning Resolution. If approved by the New York City Council, this amendment would require CPC approval of hotel developments across numerous zoning districts in all five boroughs through a discretionary land use application (the Special Permit). It is anticipated the City Council will approve the Special Permit before the end of the year.

As drafted, the Special Permit would be required prior to construction of new and enlarged (by 20% or more) hotels, motels, tourist cabins, and boatels. The Special Permit would be applicable in commercial, mixed-use, and paired M1/R districts, including many popular tourist areas of midtown Manhattan.

In order to obtain a Special Permit, an applicant would have to show the proposed hotel use would not impair future use or development of the surrounding area. In order to make this finding, an applicant would have to conduct an environmental review and go through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), a multi-month process involving numerous public hearings.

The Special Permit provides some protection for existing hotels that are vacant, have been converted, or need to expand.

  • Existing hotels that are converted to other uses may convert back to a hotel use up to six years from the date of adoption of the Special Permit text amendment without obtaining the Special Permit.
  • Existing zoning regulations regarding discontinuance of a nonconforming use after a two-year period would not apply; rather, hotels would have six years from the date of adoption of the Special Permit text amendment.
  • Certain hotel projects with pending applications at the Department of Buildings could be vested if they meet defined criteria.
  • Expansions of less than 20% would not require a Special Permit.

There is the potential for modification of the aforementioned criteria before a vote by the City Council. The controversial Special Permit will also be challenged in court. A lawsuit has already been filed in opposition to the measure by New Yorkers for Tourism.

Contact Sue Golden or Hilary Hamburg for additional information on these developments.