De Blasio moves to restrict hotel development after receiving campaign contributions from industry union

August 27, 2019

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After receiving an endorsement from the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council (HTC) for his long-shot presidential campaign in June, Mayor Bill de Blasio has asked the city’s planning council to look into the process for implementing a city-wide special permit for hotel development, as Crain’s first reported. If adopted, new hotel projects throughout the five boroughs would have to undergo the city’s land-use review process, ULURP—something that the HTC has long advocated for.

“I think special permits are a very good idea,” de Blasio said during the June endorsement rally. “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.”

“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,” HTC President Peter Ward added during the same rally, where he stood side-by-side with de Blasio.

Critics point to the fact that the HTC is the only union backer of de Blasio’s presidential campaign, with about 70 percent of his campaign contributions coming from the union’s members, according to a report by the New York Post. The policy would give the HTC more influence over the development process, and would “in most cases, essentially assure that new hotels use the HTC’s labor pool, because of the influence the union holds with City Council members through political giving and endorsements,” as Crain’s noted.

“If the city is actually contemplating a ban on hotels, it would be a devastating blow to our remarkably resilient tourist economy, to the many service industries that are linked to hotels and to multiple neighborhoods,” Mitchell Korbey, a land-use attorney at Herrick Feinstein told Crain’s. “There is no land use rationale and absolutely no zoning or public policy justification for this.”

“Since the start of this administration, we have examined ways to better regulate the construction of hotels across the city, including the use of a special permit process city-wide,” Deputy Press Secretary Jane Meyer said, aiming to dismiss a link between the HTC’s financial support of de Blasio’s campaign and the decision to move forward with the special permit policy. “This pre-dates the June event.”

As the Daily News pointed out, de Blasio is no stranger to political fundraising probes. Even though a prosecutor determined he had acted on behalf of donors, he has never been charged.

[Via Crain’s]


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