Earlier today, the New York City Planning Commission (“CPC”) held a public review session on the controversial Citywide Hotel Special Permit Text Amendment (the “Hotel Special Permit”), referring the application to all community boards, borough boards and borough presidents for the next 90 days.
The CPC was set to also hear the much-anticipated City-sponsored application to rezone SoHo/NoHo, but ultimately made the decision to hold over this application until the next CPC hearing. This decision was made in light of a lawsuit brought last week by community groups opposing the SoHo/NoHo rezoning. Petitioners embarked on a similar strategy to those who oppose the Gowanus Rezoning, seeking a temporary restraining order (“TRO”). Notably, the TRO in the Gowanus Rezoning case was lifted two weeks ago, enabling the CPC to certify the rezoning application on April 19, 2021, thereby beginning its foray into the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (“ULURP”).1 In the case of the SoHo/ NoHo rezoning, the court, earlier today, denied the petitioner’s request for a TRO, while signing the order to show cause and setting the return date and briefing schedule, allowing the lawsuit to proceed.
In this Client Alert, we provide an overview of the Hotel Special Permit, notable critiques and comments from the public review session, and provide the status and timeframe of the application going forward.
Hotel Special Permit:
As discussed in our prior client alert; the Hotel Special Permit would establish a new special permit requirement under the jurisdiction of the CPC for new hotels, motels, tourist cabins, and boatels in C1, C2, C4, C5, C6, C8, and Mixed-Use (MX) and paired M1/R districts. During the public review session earlier today, commissioners had a variety of comments regarding the Hotel Special Permit. Several commissioners vocalized their support for the Hotel Special Permit’s stated goal, i.e., ensuring that new hotel development does not conflict with the neighborhood surroundings. However, Commissioner Levin raised the question of whether the stated purpose is in conflict with the “vague” and broad finding requirements in the proposed text. Several commissioners also questioned whether this was the appropriate time to bring forward the Hotel Special Permit, as it would result in the slowdown in the development and construction of hotels, and potentially impact tourism in a time in which New York City is trying to recover from the COVID-19 global pandemic. Commissioner Douek suggested that the City consider modifications to the Hotel Special Permit, such as including an automatic sunset provision, which would allow the CPC to re-evaluate its efficacy after a number of years. Commissioner Ortiz raised a concern that “if visitors don’t have hotel rooms . . . does this make Airbnb and temporary lodging more attractive, which in turn hampers and affects housing affordability?” She added “I think we are replacing one set of problems with another. . . we want [people] in New York. . . . why would we make it more difficult for them to stay here?” Further, Commissioner Ortiz and the City agreed that special permit requirements under the Bloomberg administration curtailed growth of the hotel industry, which, as Commissioner Ortiz pointed out, if the same occurs here, will negatively impact housing affordability. The City further acknowledged that they do expect the Hotel Special Permit requirement to slow down development and construction of hotels, but assumes the hotel industry will adapt.
Since text amendments are not subject to ULURP, the CPC referred this application to all community boards, borough presidents and borough boards for the next 90 days for their review. Importantly, today, the notice of completion of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (“DEIS”) and DEIS were issued; a public hearing on the same has not yet been scheduled. The DEIS is available here.
The Stroock Land Use and Environmental Team will be diligently following this text amendment throughout the process and providing testimony and written comments, as necessary, and updating clients on timing, changes in the text, the political climate, and the likelihood of success.
ULURP is a statutory five-to-seven month process that requires review and advisory recommendations by the Community Board and Borough President, review and vote by the City Planning Commission, and review and vote by the City Council.