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Hotels south of Union Square may soon require this special permit

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The city is reviewing a proposal to regulate hotel development in the area

An aerial view of a park and surrounding buildings.
An aerial view of Union Square Park.
Max Touhey |

Developing hotels south of Union Square may soon require a special permit.

A little over a year after approving a contested upzoning to build a 21-story tech hub in Union Square, the city is moving forward with a proposal to regulate commercial development in the area, requiring a special permit for hotel development.

The proposal was negotiated by City Councilmember Carlina Rivera last year, at the time of the area’s rezoning, as preservationists and neighbors feared the change would result in outsized commercial development south of 14th Street.

“Hotels in our community like the new Moxy Hotel on East 11th Street provide little benefit to long-time residents while negatively impacting the diverse fabric of our neighborhoods and small business community, and we look forward to this new permit process being enacted,” Rivera told Curbed in a statement.

Filed last week, the proposal will now have to make its way through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). At a meeting on Monday afternoon, the Department of City Planning (DCP) is expected to discuss the application.

“The proposed special permit does not preclude hotel development, nor does it deem all future hotels inappropriate,” the application document reads. “Rather, it allows the City Planning Commission to assess the appropriateness of such development based on the local neighborhood context.”

But advocates say this proposal is not enough to protect the area’s character and historic buildings. Preservationists at the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) recently renewed their calls for the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission to create a historic district in the area to protect 193 buildings.

“[This permit] is clearly not intended to control out-of-character development in the area, nor will it have that effect,” Andrew Berman, executive director at GVSHP, argued in a statement. “This measure will merely result in more high-rise office towers being built in these low-to-mid-rise predominantly residential neighborhoods.”

The de Blasio administration has long pushed for a citywide hotel permit policy, which would require new hotel applicants to get approval from the city. DCP is currently studying the hotel industry and the effects of implementing this policy citywide.