Preservationist group blasts city’s plan for special hotel permits below Union Square

Andrew Berman, director of Village Preservation, speaking at a 2016 rally at the old buildings on E. 11th St. that were razed for the new Moxy hotel. (Courtesy Village Preservation)

BY GABE HERMAN | Local advocacy group Village Preservation blasted a proposed zoning change from the city that would require special permits for new hotels south of Union Square, saying it won’t prevent out-of-scale development in the area.

The city’s plan would require new hotels in Greenwich Village and the East Village south of Union Square to get special permits, which would have to be approved by both the City Planning Commission and City Council.

The area below Union Square has drawn a lot of development concerns recently, including over the 14th Street Tech Hub and recent opening of the Moxy Hotel on East 11th Street, which replaced five 19th century buildings on that block that local residents and preservationists fought to keep.

Village Preservation said that although the city’s new proposal can be seen as addressing development concerns in the area, the city’s own analysis indicated that there is still a likelihood of large building development even if new hotels aren’t granted.

“The proposed special permit requirement for hotels south of Union Square is clearly not intended to control out-of-character development in the area, nor will it have that effect,” said Andrew Berman, executive director of Village Preservation.

Berman cited reports of the plan benefitting the mayor’s supporters in the hotel industry, and added that “This proposed measure comes nowhere near Councilmember Carlina Rivera’s campaign pledge to condition her support for the 14th Street Tech Hub upon comprehensive neighborhood protections for the surrounding Greenwich Village and East Village community, which this fails to deliver.”

When The Villager reached out to Rivera’s office, the Councilmember was supportive of the city’s plan.

“We’re glad that the Department of City Planning listened to the calls from the community and our office and is finally enacting solutions to address out-of-scale commercial developments, in this case with a hotel special permit,” Rivera said in a statement. “Hotels in our community like the new Moxy Hotel on East 11th Street provide little benefit to long-time residents while negatively impacting the diverse fabric of our neighborhoods and small business community, and we look forward to this new permit process being enacted.

“Our residents have also voiced support for other land use tools that could curb some of this development and keep our commercial landscape in context with our residential neighborhoods,” Rivera added, “including a Special Commercial District in the East Village that would limit account for store size and retail diversity. The City should consider supporting these options as they move forward with this special permit.”

A view up Broadway, just south of Union Square. (Photo by Gabe Herman)

Berman said of the city’s new proposal that it would lead to “destruction of more historic buildings such as the former homes of artists Willem de Kooning and Reginald Marsh — buildings which the city reiterates in its filings for this plan that it will not landmark, in spite of repeated requests from this organization and the local community.”

Berman added, “Much as the Tech Hub was recently redubbed ‘Zero Irving,’ this measure offers ‘Zero Help’ for Greenwich Village or the East Village.”

The City Planning Commission held a technical review of the city’s plan on Monday, starting the formal review process and referring it out for the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP).