The construction of a nine-story hotel in Long Island City was approved by the Board of Standards and Appeals recently, however at Tuesday meeting of the Long Island City Allaince, community members continued to voice strong opposition.
Problems for developer Steven Bahar, of Manhattan, began when the area was down zoned, therefore disallowing the project.
According to Bahar, the rezoning, along with several stop work orders from the Department of Buildings, have caused delays in the construction of the $3.8 million hotel set to be located at 39-35 27th St.
Bahar submitted a request to the BSA on Dec. 9, 2008 requesting that he be allowed to build under the old zoning codes since he had already committed so many resources to the project.
He said that he is developing the hotel there because it was close to the city and just a short way from public transportation.
“They are a bunch of crooks over there,” said Barbara Lorinz, president of the Dutch Kills Advocacy League and a life-long resident of the area, regarding the BSA’s decision to allow Bahar to continue construction. All top-ranking commissioners are appointed by the mayor.
Bahar’s attorney, Marvin Mitzner, claimed Bahar had a vested right to build the hotel because he had done enough construction and committed enough resources before the rezoning.
If Bahar had not been granted this vested right, he would, under current zoning restrictions, have to reduce his hotel to 22 rooms, whereas his plan is for a 57-room hotel.
This loss, as estimated by a financial report submitted by Mitzner, would have been as large as $2,036,324.
“These were the most antagonistic neighbors I have ever dealt with,” Bahar said of the residents who resisted his development.
He said that the new zoning makes no sense. The politicians were “wimps” and they succumbed to the residents’ will just so they could secure their votes, he said.
There are over a dozen hotels in the area that are the same size or larger than the one he proposes to build, and the only reason there are complaints are because it is on a residential block, he said.
Megan Dees Friedman, vice president of the Dutch Kills Advocacy League, denied Bahar’s allegation. She said that the character of the neighborhood was a concern, however the residents’ larger concern was that a hotel of this size would significantly reduce the value of their biggest asset, their homes.
“He has no respect and no regard for our community,” Lorinz added.
Before the new zoning laws went into effect, Bahar confirmed that he had only built around 24 percent of his foundation. According to Friedman, you need to have a completed foundation in order for your rights to be vested.
In addition to depreciation of the value of their homes, residents claim that homes near the construction site have been damaged, even with the little work that’s been done.
“… already, our houses shook. Could you imagine him putting up nine stories of steel?” Lorinz said.
Bahar said he is still not sure what he is going to do with the property. He has several other projects going at this time, so he may delay building the hotel for several months.
Although the BSA already made its decision, the Dutch Kills Advocacy League plans to take Bahar to New York State Supreme Court within the next 30 days.
Lorinz stressed that residents of Dutch Kills are not against development and that she knows progress must go on. The residents say they simply do not want large structures overtaking their two-and-three family homes.