The developer of a planned hotel near JFK Airport say their project will not do the community any harm, but a cautious Community Board 10, mindful of its lack of input on other hotel projects along the Belt Parkway and the situation at the former Skyway Motel, now a men’s homeless shelter, are not rushing to approve a zoning variance to allow it.
The hotel is planned for a triangle zoned for manufacturing between 149th and 150th avenues and 132nd Street in South Ozone Park. The location at 132-10 149 Ave. is directly across the street from the Hilton Garden Inn, JFK Sheraton and the Skyway men’s shelter, where a number of registered sex offenders live. Because of the manufacturing zoning, the hotel’s developer would need a variance to construct the building. The location is one block south of the Belt Parkway and about a quarter of a mile west of the main entrance to JFK Airport.
The hotel would be a four-story, 101-room building, likely to be a Quality Inn. The building will be built parallel to 149th Avenue with the parking lot on the south side of the hotel. It will serve mainly airline travelers or staff for short-term stays.
The development team presented an updated plan to CB 10 last Thursday night, including some changes made after meeting with the board’s Land Use Committee.
Patrick Jones, who represented the developer at the meeting, said the Board of Standards and Appeals said the development would not be out of character with the community — one of the requirements needed in order to get a variance — because there are a number of other hotels in the area. But CB 10 Chairwoman Betty Braton said the board differs with that assessment, noting that the other hotels were either build as of right, meaning not needing a variance and thus not subject to the board’s input, or aren’t technically in the community of South Ozone Park.
“We had no say so over the hotel development,” she said. “And the other hotels are not part of this community, they are separated by a highway. There is a school a block away, residential homes a block away. Our view of the community is that it is not just for industrial use.”
Angela Antonio, a CB 10 member and member of the South Ozone Park Civic Association, said the civic group is opposed to the hotel.
The two other issues CB 10’s Land Use Committee had with the plan was the type of hotel that would be constructed and concerns over the main entrance to the hotel.
Jones sought to assure the board that the hotel will be a brand-name hotel and would not be at risk of being taken over by the city for a homeless shelter as Skyway was.
“That is not in our interest as a business,” Jones said.
John Calcagnile, chairman of CB 10’s Land Use Committee, said another concern is the location of the main entrance of the hotel — along 149th Avenue — versus the parking lot on the opposite side. Patrons would have to walk from the lot to the main entrance by exiting the property and walking along the sidewalk.
Jones said it is possible for them to move the main entrance to face the parking lot, but felt it would be more aesthetically pleasing, and thus better for business, if the hotel’s main entrance faces 149th Avenue, closer to the other hotels. Across from the site on the 150th Avenue side is a Department of Sanitation lot where rock salt is stored.
But the board was adamant about the move, saying the existence of the homeless shelter makes it dangerous for hotel patrons to walk around the block and wanted assurance from Jones that the change could and would be made before any vote is taken to support the variance.
“I don’t think we can make a recommendation to approve unless we see the change,” Calcagnile said.
Ultimately the board voted to table an up-or-down vote on the proposal, though some members said it isn’t likely they would ever be convinced to vote to approve the variance.
Board member Renate Teuschler suggested to Jones the possibility of changing the design so the hotel would be built in a north-south orientation, allowing for the parking lot and the hotel’s main entrance to be on the same street not requiring patrons to walk near the shelter.
“Maybe,” Jones said. “I hadn’t thought of that.”