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Pol calls for an end to hotel hoedown

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Areas zoned for manufacturing use should be rendered inhospitable to hotels, a local lawmaker urged last week.

As officials from the Department of City Planning revealed the agency’s plans for the rezoning of 25 blocks near the Gowanus Canal, City Councilmember Bill de Blasio called on the agency to ban the development of new hotels there.

Seven hotels are already open or being constructed in Gowanus—the borough’s nascent hospitality district. De Blasio said their proliferation “snuck up” on him.

“Seven hotels, all within walking distance, is unacceptable to me,” he said.

City zoning law allows hotels to rise in light manufacturing districts, with no special public review required.

“This, to me, is a hidden form of development,” de Blasio said. “I just can’t, for the life of me, understand why hotels are in manufacturing districts.”

The lawmaker said that hotels threaten to push out existing manufacturing uses, and in areas that are predominantly residential, they are disruptive because they operate night and day.

“While we are in the midst of a hotel boom, at some point that will taper off and some of these hotels will not make it or even worse, will turn into ‘hot sheet’ motels in order to stay afloat,” he warned.

City Planning had this to say: “We are aware of concerns about hotels, but must balance that against the fact that the hotel industry is an important industry for the city’s economy,” spokesperson Jennifer Torres said.

“Hotels provide employment opportunities for city residents and support additional employment opportunities in economic sectors supported by tourism. Hotels need to be able to locate where business is conducted, as well as where they can serve demand generated by nearby residential neighborho­ods,” she added.

The hotel boom has the unflagging support of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.

Carl Hum, the organization’s president and CEO, told this paper that the presence of hotels shows that the borough is coming into its own “as a tourist destination.”

“The folks building hotels have done their homework with what the market can bear,” he said. “They are creating jobs and addressing a need.”

Hum said that Gowanus, which is nestled between Carroll Gardens and Park Slope, is a logical settling point for the industry. The neighborhoods are home to large residential populations whose families and friends are often in need of lodging. Moreover, the area offers a host of attractions that lure visitors.

Robert Gaeta, the general manager of Hotel Le Bleu, a 48-room hotel on Fourth Avenue that opened last year, said the more hotels, the better.

“I don’t think more hotels will hurt the area in any way,” he said. “I don’t see how we hurt the area—we contribute to the area.”

“It’s like boats in the water. It becomes a destination for tourists,” he continued.

“We employ 40 people from the councilman’s district,” he added. “Tourists obviously bring dollars in his district, so I don’t see why it would be a negative.”

Gaeta said his hotel, which will be opening its restaurant called Vue this summer, operates at 85-90 percent capacity.

He said the heyday of manufacturing has long since passed.

“There has been a shift in the economy. The jobs are in the service end,” Gaeta said. “This,” referring to his ultramodern boutique hotel, “is what creates jobs.”

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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