(p. A8) Mayor Bill de Blasio and other New York City leaders are pushing a controversial plan to drastically restrict hotel development, a move that the mayor’s own experts fear could endanger the city’s post-pandemic recovery and cost billions in lost tax revenue.
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The Council is expected to approve the plan in time for Mr. de Blasio to see it become law before he leaves office this year. Once it is in place, developers fear that few, if any, new hotels would be built.
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“We flag that to continue with this proposal could be seen as contrary to economic recovery principles and sound planning,” Marisa Lago, the director of the planning department, wrote last year in the memo to City Hall.
But Mr. de Blasio’s views hew closer to those of another group: the hotel workers union that endorsed his 2020 presidential campaign, pouring $440,000 into ads to bolster his ill-fated candidacy.
The union, the Hotel Trades Council, has long pushed to limit the construction of new hotels, which are often nonunion. Its calculation has been that limiting the development of such hotels, which typically offer less-expensive lodging than existing full-service hotels, would tend to increase hotel room prices generally and bolster the higher-end hotels where many of its workers are employed.
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In most of the city, developers are free to build hotels in areas that are zoned for such use. Under a special approval process, building hotels would become far more challenging, said Moses Gates, vice president of housing and neighborhood planning at the Regional Plan Association, an influential nonprofit planning group. No other type of routine development currently gets the kind of scrutiny that Mr. de Blasio is proposing for hotels, he said.
“Hotels would be the only common land use which would always need City Council approval to be built, no matter what,” Mr. Gates said.
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The Hotel Trades Council’s support of a special permit process for new hotels may seem counterintuitive, since it is effectively opposing the growth of jobs in the industry that it represents. Union hotel jobs in New York City provide one of the few pathways to the middle class for workers with no college education.
“Labor generally is in favor of employment and of growth, but especially jobs in their own sector,” said Harry C. Katz, a professor of collective bargaining at Cornell University.
But mid-market hotels that serve middle-class tourists are hard to unionize, union and industry experts say. If citywide special permits are adopted, as is expected, the hotel union would most likely use its political leverage to pressure Council members to only accept new hotels that use union labor.
For the full story, see:
Dana Rubinstein and J. David Goodman. “A Plan to Limit New Hotels in New York Meets Resistance.” The New York Times (Wednesday, April 28, 2021): A8.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 27, 2021, and has the title “A $7 Billion Mistake? New York Seeks to Curb New Hotels.”)
The research co-authored by Stone and mentioned above was described in:
Stone, Brian, Jr., Evan Mallen, Mayuri Rajput, Carina J. Gronlund, Ashley M. Broadbent, E. Scott Krayenhoff, Godfried Augenbroe, Marie S. O’Neill, and Matei Georgescu. “Compound Climate and Infrastructure Events: How Electrical Grid Failure Alters Heat Wave Risk.” Environmental Science & Technology (published online in advance of print on April 30, 2021).