Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP

On Wednesday, July 14, at 10 am, the New York City Planning Commission (CPC) held its public hearing on the Department of City Planning’s proposed hotel special permit text . Over the past two months, the proposal has been considered by the City’s Borough Presidents and Community Boards, with a number of Community Boards voting in support, and a number of Community Boards voting against the City’s proposal to implement a special permit requirement for all new hotels. At the public hearing, the Commissioners received public comments regarding the proposal. A number of City Council Members, other elected officials, neighborhood residents, and a representative from the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council, AFL-CIO (the union for hotel workers in New York) testified in support of the proposal. A number of other organizations, including the Regional Plan Association and the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, testified against the proposal. Those who spoke against the proposal questioned its timing, cited lack of any evidence of problems caused by hotels in commercial districts, and noted that the proposal will likely result in significant detrimental economic impacts on the tourism sector and the City’s economy as a whole, given that it will likely slow or stop development of new hotels. Several Commissioners also mentioned the proposal’s probable economic impacts, and questioned its land use rationale, wondering why hotels should be subject to a higher level of scrutiny than other uses in the Zoning Resolution, the majority of which are not subject to a special permit process. Some of the Commissioners also suggested that the proposal should be modified, potentially to include a sunset provision or a geographic limitation. The Planning Commission’s vote will likely occur in August.

On Wednesday, July 28, also at 10 am, the CPC will hold its public hearing on the Gowanus Neighborhood Plan, the Department of City Planning’s long-awaited rezoning of the Brooklyn neighborhood adjacent to the Gowanus Canal. If approved, the Gowanus rezoning will upzone certain areas, rezone certain manufacturing areas to permit residential use, and will replace a number of existing zoning districts with contextual districts. It will also implement the Special Gowanus Mixed-Use District, which will contain special regulations for the bulk and use of new developments within the district, as well as a waterfront access plan, which will modify design standards for waterfront public access for those properties along the canal.

The CPC has already held hearings this summer for two other Department initiatives: the Elevate Transit – Zoning for Accessibility text amendment, and the FRESH Food Stores Update. The Elevate Transit amendment, if implemented, would require many new developments on lots with over 5,000 square feet of area and within 50 feet of a mass transit station to obtain a determination from the MTA on whether a transit easement volume should be provided to allow for future subway station access. This requirement would apply in most zoning districts with a density of R5D and greater. The Elevate Transit text amendment would also create an expanded transit improvement bonus program through a CPC authorization, which would grant a floor area bonus for developments within all R9 and R10 districts (and C and M equivalents) that provide transit station improvements, including accessibility improvements. The FRESH Food Stores Update proposes to expand the FRESH food store zoning bonus to additional areas in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island, along with other changes to the FRESH program.

Finally, the CPC is expected to hold a hearing in August on the SoHo/NoHo Neighborhood Plan, another long-awaited rezoning in Manhattan’s SoHo and NoHo neighborhoods, which have for many years been regulated by outdated manufacturing zoning districts that prohibit residential and ground floor retail uses throughout both neighborhoods.

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