2012-04-05 / Other News

Community Shouts “No Hotel!” At Huge Protest Rally

By Linda Steinmuller

City Councilman Jumaane Williams, center, joins residents to protest proposed hotel. 
Linda Steinmuller City Councilman Jumaane Williams, center, joins residents to protest proposed hotel. Linda Steinmuller Concerned residents, elected officials, union members, and community leaders voiced their concerns loudly last Thursday evening at a community rally led by City Council Member Jumaane D. Williams (45th CD) in response to community outrage over the proposed site of a controversial hotel proposed at 5911 Foster Avenue.

Due to new zoning rules, introduced by Mayor Bloomberg several years ago, the area was designated as a mixed-use, M1 Industrial Business Zone (IBZ), allowing many different types of commercial developments to be built there.

The proposed establishment, The Foster Avenue Hotel, falls within the zoning regulations, making it an “Asof Right” development. For that reason, developers did not have to obtain approval from Community Board 18 nor the City Planning Commission.

The site is next to a junkyard, and community members fear that the hotel will promote prostitution, illegal drug sales, and other criminal activities.

Roy McKenzie, president of the East 59th Street Block Association, has lived on East 59th Street, which borders the location, for the past 34 years.

According to McKenzie, “I have watched the neighborhood go, come, and go right back to where we need it. We welcome businesses or residences that will uplift the neighborhood. Putting a hotel by a junkyard cannot attract tourists; it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.

“The hotel does not belong here for several reasons, ” he added. “It will devalue our property and jeopardize the safety of elders and children. We need a chance to maintain and live happily as a neighborhood.”

At the rally, Williams told a NY1 reporter, “This neighborhood is not a place to have a hotel – no one is stopping off on their way to Manhattan or from the airport. There is only one reason to stay there: for 30, 45 or 60 minutes in a room. We are going to fight this tooth and nail – we don’t care whether this is an ‘As of Right’ development.”

Protestors were ready to fight and carried large placards while shouting “No Hotel! No Hotel!”

One sign read, “In this community we need afterschool programs and recreation centers – not a paid by the hour hotel.”

Another sign read, “We don’t need developers to come into our neighborhood and destroy it – so take your whorehouse back to your area. No Hotel!”

Williams said he is working on legislation to ensure that all future projects go through the community board first. He also wants to look into the “suspicious” business license that was established by the developer of the project. According to the councilman’s office, the owner of the site, Viral Patel, and Viral Hospitality LLC in Lindenhurst, Long Island, has been contacted repeatedly but there has been no response.

Should the proposed plan go through, residents will not give up. They plan to work with local businesses and have them shine floodlights on the hotel at night. They will also take pictures of licenses plates on cars that frequent the establishment.

Concerned citizens have already started a letter-writing campaign to target the mayor’s office. Anyone interested in sending a letter to the mayor should access the “No Foster Avenue Hotel” Facebook page for a sample letter. You can access the group by visiting their Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/groups/400 635106616301.

In the meantime, residents picket and chant, “Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho! This hotel has gotta go!”

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