Advocates are pushing for the passage of legislation in the City Council that would permit the licensing of residential hostels in the city.
The bill, which is sitting in the Committee on Housing and Buildings, would authorize the construction and regulation of hostels. Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, said he predicts that the flourishing of hostels in Queens could bring in more revenue for the borough.
“Countless tourists, who can’t afford luxury hotels in Manhattan, are drawn to Queens when they visit our city and inevitably spend tourism dollars on restaurants and other amenities in our borough,” Friedman said.
Hostels are dwelling units where guests can rent a bed and share the bathroom, kitchen or lounge with other guests. It’s an alternative to hotels and usually cheaper.
The legislation is an effort to correct the damage wrought by the 2010 illegal hotel bill that forced hostels in the five boroughs to close. Friedman said the closings were an unintended consequence of the bill, which was implemented to clamp down on illegal hotels, apartments designated as permanent residences that were improperly rented out on a nightly basis.
Friedman said hostels would contribute to Queens local economy by attracting tourists to the borough and creating jobs. He noted that studies have shown that New York City is losing $150 million annually since hostels were forced to close.
“Millions of dollars, taxable revenue, can be generated in the Queens economy,” he said. “When we welcome [tourists and travelers] to someone’s home they’re going to spend money at local restaurants and retail stores.”
The bill defines a licensed hostel as a “multiple dwelling providing lodging, food and other services to tourists, travelers and others requiring temporary accommodation.” The bill also states hostels may contain private rooms, but not apartments, and should not be occupied by the same individual for more than 29 days in a 12-month period.
“[Hostels ] would mean more to us than any other borough because we have two airports. We can attract more travelers,” Friedman said.
Despite the money hostels are projected to bring to the borough if the bill is passed, some Queens residents are worried that these facilities will attract the wrong people.
“We have enough cheap hotels already,” Ram Garib of the Queens Village Civic Association said. “If you attract the wrong people, you will attract the wrong problems in the area.”
Cynthia Curry of the Wayanda Civic Association in Jamaica said she doesn’t think the additional revenue hostels would bring in is worth risking the safety of Queens residents.
“This would not have a positive impact,” she said. “I do believe we [already] have adequate accommodations [for visitors],” she said. “We don’t know where these people are coming from … we already have problems with rapists.”
Friedman said safety would not be an issue if the plan is “done right.”
“I can’t see how people will be opposed … when efforts are being done to attract visitors and tourists to our city,” he said.
Friedman added that Queens is full of commercial areas where there is space for hostels to be profitable such as Long Island City, Astoria and Sunnyside.