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Mayor de Blasio moves to limit hotel development as industry union supports his presidential campaign


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. The New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council (HTC) announced their endorsement of de Blasio for the Democratic nomination for president. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Mayor de Blasio is moving to require a special permit for hotel development — a step supported by a major industry union that recently endorsed his long-shot campaign for president.

City Hall and de Blasio Deputy Mayor Vicki Been requested that the city planning department study how to implement such a permit citywide, limiting hotel development by requiring any new projects to go through the land use review process.

The powerful New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council endorsed de Blasio for president in June after pushing for the measure for years.

The union has long advocated for mandating developers get City Council approval through the city’s land use process, known as ULURP, before they build hotels. Requiring City Council OK for hotel developments would give HTC more say on the projects.

City planning officials have opposed a special permit for hotels for years, including under former Mayor Bloomberg. De Blasio and the City Council already required special permits for hotels built in manufacturing zones, but the policy being studied would expand the requirement across the five boroughs.

City Hall and Been’s office requested the study, according to the Department of City Planning, which said there was no definite timeline for the analysis. The department said there have been ongoing conversations with City Hall and the deputy mayor’s office since at least April on the mayor’s interest in a citywide hotels permit.

“This is not new — it’s been in discussion for years. It’s a smart policy that protects the integrity of neighborhoods," de Blasio spokeswoman Jane Meyer said. “For speed and ease, we initially implemented the targeted policies in rezoned areas and manufacturing zones. With that done, we renewed the conversation on citywide implementation. There’s nothing more to it.”

De Blasio championed a citywide special permit for hotel development at a June rally after HTC announced their support of his White House bid.

“I think special permits are a very good idea,” de Blasio said. “I think we should extend it as far as we can with the City Council because what it does is it gives us the opportunity to determine what a hotel will mean for a community.”

At the same rally, HTC President Peter Ward praised de Blasio for requiring hotel developers get special permission for projects in manufacturing zones.

“In just a few short years we changed the zoning in this city thanks to this mayor to create a fair process to make sure that hotels that come here to operate go through a process that guarantees they serve not just their interest but the communities,” Ward said at the time.

Ward said in a statement Monday that a “one-size-fits-all approach for hotel construction” doesn’t make sense in the city.

“That’s why for the past decade, working with two mayoral administrations and three City Council speakers, our union has pushed for progress on a balanced zoning plan that would ensure all community stakeholders will have a role in determining the kind of sustainable development and job growth opportunities that define our communities,” Ward said. “For anyone who’s been paying attention to the problem of hotel overdevelopment for the past decade, the idea of requiring special permits citywide is not a new solution, and we look forward to continuing to work with the Council and administration as they build on the progress they have already made to our zoning laws.”

De Blasio has also supported more enforcement against home-sharing site Airbnb – another key priority for HTC.

He still dismissed concerns his presidential supporters would get special treatment.

“I want support, but I’m gonna make decisions on behalf of the people and on the merits,” de Blasio said after the endorsement rally.

De Blasio has already narrowly escaped a brush with federal and state prosecutors who probed his political fundraising as part of pay-to-play investigations. One prosecutor determined that the mayor acted on behalf of donors looking for favors from the city, though he and his aides were never charged.