As New York City’s population and employment numbers hit record highs, competition for scarce buildable land is growing especially strong. Light Manufacturing zoning districts (M1 zones) have emerged as areas of opportunity, presenting some of the city’s last reservoirs of buildable land, but rules regulating land use and development in these districts have changed little since the city was comprehensively rezoned in 1961. The Department of City Planning needs to ensure that sufficient opportunities to support industrial, commercial, residential and institutional growth remain, and believes it would be beneficial to revisit the zoning framework for M1 districts. In this context, the proliferation of hotels in M1 districts is seen as problematic.
Since 2010, there has been rapid increase in hotels in M1 districts, particularly in areas near transit. Citywide, 13 percent of existing hotel rooms are in M1 districts, whereas 30 percent of hotel rooms in the pipeline are slated to be developed in M1 districts. This is due to a combination of rapid growth in tourism in New York City over the last decade and the current zoning framework, which in M1 districts offers hotels a competitive advantage over most other permitted uses.
Hotels may directly or indirectly detract from opportunities for other kinds of development, by occupying vacant or underdeveloped sites that could have been available to other uses better equipped to fulfill neighborhood development objectives and needs, or by accelerating neighborhood change with the expansion of tourism-oriented uses. Given the disparate characteristics of the city’s M1 districts, the increasingly diminishing stock of buildable land in NYC and M districts’ position as NYC’s last land reservoirs, more careful thought about the trajectory of hotel development is appropriate.
The New York City Department of City Planning (DCP) is proposing a zoning text amendment to establish a new Special Permit under the jurisdiction of the City Planning Commission for new hotels, motels, tourist cabins and boatels in light manufacturing (M1) districts citywide. A Special Permit is a discretionary action by the City Planning Commission, subject to the public review process (ULURP), which may modify use regulations if certain conditions specified in the Zoning Resolution are met. The public review process includes Community Board, Borough President and City Planning Commission review. The City Council may elect to review a Special Permit application and Mayoral review is also optional.
Because there are very few motels, tourist cabins or boatels in NYC, the term hotel is here used to refer to all of these transient accommodations.
The Department of City Planning needs to ensure that sufficient opportunities to support industrial, commercial, residential and institutional growth remain, and believes it would be beneficial to revisit the zoning framework for M1 districts. However, since 2010, there has been rapid increase in hotels in M1 districts, particularly in areas near transit. A market analysis of the city’s hotel conditions, produced by a socioeconomics consultant team engaged by DCP, studied this phenomenon.
The increase in hotels is due to a combination of rapid growth in tourism in New York City over the last decade and the current zoning framework, which in M1 districts offers hotels a competitive advantage over most other permitted uses. DCP has recognized that the following aspects give hotels an edge over many other uses:
By establishing a new CPC special permit, DCP proposes a case-by-case, site-specific review process to ensure that hotel development occurs only on appropriate sites, based on reasonable considerations regarding the achievement of a balanced mix of uses and jobs in the area and other opportunities for the future siting of a permitted use on the site. A CPC special permit would allow for the consideration of appropriateness of hotel development in both the actively light industrial areas, where hotels and existing uses are potentially incompatible, and the more mixed-use areas within M1 districts, where the City may want to direct growth towards various other employment sectors or additional housing. A CPC special permit would also still allow for hotels to serve the needs of the tourism industry when appropriate.
Transient hotels operated for a public purpose by the City of New York or organizations under contract with City will be exempt from the Special Permit requirement. Hotels operated for public purpose are primarily used to provide temporary housing assistance, or shelter, to homeless individuals and families. It is a legal obligation of the City to provide shelter to all eligible persons within the five boroughs, and the City must maintain the existing flexibility in zoning that permits temporary housing for the homeless in all M1 districts to ensure it has sufficient capacity to meet census demand for temporary accommodations.
The proposed CPC Special Permit would apply to all M1 districts, excluding MX or paired M1/R districts, except for:
Any hotel existing within M1 districts on the date of adoption of the proposed zoning text amendment would be considered a conforming use, meaning that any enlargement or extension would be permitted.
Please visit the Scoping Documents page for more information on the environmental review process.