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Bad politics, worse policy: de Blasio’s sop to the hotel union would stymie growth


File - Flanked by his wife Chirlane McCray (L) and New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council president Peter Ward (R), Democratic presidential candidate and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio takes the stage at the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council (HTC) headquarters in Midtown Manhattan, June 5, 2019 in New York City. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The powerful Hotel Trades Council union’s head-scratching decision to endorse Mayor de Blasio’s quixotic presidential bid earlier this summer looks to be paying off: Hizzoner is reportedly considering requiring would-be hotel developers to go through an onerous special-permitting process before they build anywhere in the five boroughs.

The change, which would give the labor-friendly City Council a say in approving every new hotel in New York City, is something the hotel union has long coveted.

This proposition doesn’t just reek of nakedly transactional politics. It’s also terrible policy.

Why make it harder to build hotel rooms, of all things, at a time when city tourism is at an all-time high? (And in the wake of a crackdown on Airbnb rentals, and at a time when, as de Blasio’s shelter-building plans stall, more hotels are being used to house the homeless?)

Under the proposal, it would be easier for a developer to open a porn store or a hazardous chemical storage facility than a hotel. Such a change upends the very logic that underpins zoning laws in the first place: that a developer can build as long as their development stays within the boundaries of a neighborhood’s planned uses.

The de Blasio administration’s flimsy rationale rests on an assumption that widespread opposition to hotel development exists in New York City. Nonsense; to the extent there’s community wariness now, it’s because some have become de facto homeless shelters.

Some worried that de Blasio’s presidential run would damage the city. From where we sit, his lackluster management habits look about the same whether he’s in Brooklyn or Brooklyn, Iowa. One thing surely hasn’t changed: the mayor’s penchant for putting special-interest-favored policy before the common good.