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Waldorf Astoria Condo Conversion Will Proceed Despite Ban

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Details of the Waldorf Astoria's planned condo conversion are still unknown, but one thing is now certain: it will be happening. Two things that could have possibly stopped it—a ban on such conversions from City Council and its 1,221 union workers—will not pose problems. The latter issue was solved with what the Times calls "a record deal" for severance pay for the workers. New owners the Anbang Insurance Group, which paid $1.95 billion for the hotel, will pay approximately $149 million to employees over the next two years. The average payout will be about $142,000 per person, but at least one longtime employee will be getting more than $640,000. The union is extremely pleased with the agreement, and many employees will likely be rehired when the hotel reopens as a smaller operation.

As for the two-year moratorium on hotel-to-condo conversions that the City Council enacted in May, it does not apply to the Waldorf Astoria. The Times explains that "hotels that had been purchased in the previous 24 months and where the buyers had expressed an intent to convert were exempt."

The New York Hotel Trades Council pushed for the conversion ban, and its passing clearly helped negotiate better terms for the severance packaged. The union's political director called it "a fortunate confluence of events" that the ban moved through City Council at the same time they were completing severance negotiations.

It's still unclear how much of the Waldorf Astoria will be converted to condos, or even when work might begin. One of the three severance deals allows workers to "take part of their severance now but continue working for two years or until the hotel closes, whichever comes first, and then receive the rest of the severance," so a timeline for the conversion has obviously not been set.

The Waldorf Astoria has 1,421 rooms, including the 181-room Waldorf Towers, located on the 46-story hotel's upper floors. Anbang plans to renovate and convert at least part of the towers, and create a smaller five-star hotel.
· Waldorf Astoria and Hotel Workers Union Reach $149 Million Deal for Severance Payouts [NYT]
· Waldorf Astoria Jumps on Bandwagon, Plans Condo Conversion [Curbed]
· All Waldorf Astoria coverage [Curbed]