Six new hotels sprouting up in the industrial portion of Sunset Park are just wolves in sheep’s clothing that will end up housing homeless people instead of tourists, claims a community activist who fears the surge in hotel construction in the neighborhood is a thinly veiled attempt to shoehorn more shelters into the area.
“These are not hotels. I don’t care what they say, they’re going to be used as shelters,” said Delvis Valdes, a director with activist group the Village of Sunset Park. “It’s no coincidence that Sunset Park is suddenly the hottest neighborhood to visit — it’s not. There aren’t enough tourists to fill these hotels so the homeless do.”
Sunset Park only has one official homeless shelter — a controversial home for single men on 49th Street between Second and Third avenues — but the city’s Department of Homeless Services is renting rooms in at least five new area inns without alerting locals, according to Community Board 7 district manager Jeremy Laufer. And this paper recently discovered that the city quietly converted all 77-rooms of a Comfort Inn on 38th Street near Fourth Avenue into a shelter
Now developers aim to build at least six new inns in sections of Sunset Park and Green-Wood Heights and residents assume they too will be claimed by the city and transformed into shelters.
“I immediately associate the word hotel with shelter now,” said lifelong Sunset Parker Silvia Velasquez, who lives near what was supposed to be a Howard Johnson hotel that is now renting 41 rooms to transients. “I have no doubt that some if not all of those places are going to be hotels — and it’s really sad that I’ve come to feel that way.”
The “hotels” are peppered throughout the nabes and will add more than 300 rooms to the area if the inns are built as is, according to city records. Two of the projects were rejected due to incomplete applications but will likely be refilled, said a spokesman with the Department of Buildings. And at least two of the new constructions are planned for a swath of waterfront typically reserved for industrial development — where real-estate watchers say builders are constructing hotels to push for rezoning for luxury housing.
One of the sites is in the heart of Sunset Park’s manufacturing center on Second Avenue between 49th and 50th streets and is a mere block from the waterfront. Dyker Heights-based Taishan Assocation filed permits to replace an auto-body shop there with a whopping nine-story tower. The building would be divided between medical offices and an inn including 70 new hotel rooms, according to Department of Building records. And the news is perplexing to those who work in the manufacturing hub.
“Why would you want a hotel or a shelter down here? We have so many hotels it doesn’t make any sense to me,” said Sunset Parker Eduardo Esparza, who manages an auto repair shop on Third Avenue. “I love Sunset Park, but this ain’t no Times Square.”