Gotta Room? New Hotel Zoning Limits in the Works?

It has been widely reported that the City is launching a new effort aimed at restricting hotels in manufacturing areas. The reports have stated that “City Hall” is under pressure from labor unions representing hotel workers and from advocates of industrial jobs to “do something”.

First, as of this blog entry, no new zoning rules have been adopted. Second, while speedy action on a minor change to the zoning text is possible, a major zoning amendment will likely take months to adopt.

What’s been suggested by some is a new Special Permit for manufacturing districts — where hotels are now “as-of-right”. Special Permits, for the uninitiated, are “full-ULURPs — requiring months of staff review at the Department of City Planning and then multiple public hearings and a vote by the City Council. In short, it is possible that new hotels in any of the City’s manufacturing zoning districts (e.g. Garment Ctr., Meatpacking District, West Clinton, Long Is. City, West Park Slope, Staten Island’s West Shore) would be subject to a lengthy and ultimately unpredictable public review process. It is also possible that the new zoning may begin in only one of these Districts – most likely the Garment Center ¬- where pressure for the conversion of restricted garment buildings has been intense. Since the Garment Center falls within a Special Zoning District, an amendment to these rules could happen within 3 to 4 months.

The over-arching goal here is presumably to “preserve” manufacturing zones – making them, in a sense, more exclusive. Perhaps the other goal (for some folks) is to stop new hotels, increase room rates at existing hotels and limit development.

What’s unsaid is that in order to have a new zoning policy, there needs to be what planners call a “land use rationale”. And, in this regard, it is unclear what the under-pinnings of this effort are. Limiting construction in manufacturing zones does only that; it won’t bring manufacturing back. As for room rates and tourism, we’ll leave that debate to economists. But, we understand that tourism is healthy and should be nurtured.

We’ll be watching this matter closely!