Prospective new hotel across from P.S. 104 in Bay Ridge stirs controversy
Concerned residents and politicians from both sides of the aisle joined forces in a spirited rally on Friday in opposition to a prospective new hotel to be built across from P.S. 104 at 92nd Street and Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge. A vocal crowd of protesters braved the cold and wind, holding signs and chanting, “No hotel rooms, we want classrooms!”
The Bay Ridge Community Council (BRCC) and state Sen. Marty Golden organized the rally questioning the prospective hotel’s close proximity to the school and the potential use of the building to house the homeless. Other elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan, Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis, City Councilmember Justin Brannan and Brooklyn Conservative Party Chairman Gerard Kassar also attended.
Community 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann confirmed that plans were pre-filed on March 14 for hotel use on the site.
“The Community Board 10 District Office received calls from nearby property owners who were told by representatives performing soil boring tests in February that the lot was in contract and plans were to develop the property as a 63-unit hotel,” Beckmann told the Brooklyn Eagle. “The Community Board was asked if a hotel could be developed in the [school] zoning district. The answer is yes. The 9100 block of Fifth Avenue is located within the C8-2 Zoning District.”
BRCC President Ralph Succar, who helped organize the event with Golden, hosted the rally.
“When I found out that there was a hotel that was going to come across the street from this school I felt that we needed to do something about it,” Succar said. “We are standing here today to do whatever we have to do to stop this project from proceeding.”
Golden thanked BRCC for taking this cause on as a primary issue for the community.
“We don’t want to put a hotel where we so desperately need classrooms,” Golden said. “We want classrooms not hotel rooms…this is about Bay Ridge; this is about the people who live here. It’s about the children who go to that school.”
In a show of Bay Ridge unity Golden added, “We should stand together — Democrat, Republican, all of us together — on this issue. Nothing should separate us. We need to make sure that the right thing is done here.”
Frank Raccuglia is the property owner, according to Succar.
Golden provided New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) public records regarding the property and prospective property owner Ankit Mehta under the business name Bay Ridge Realty LLC. He is the same owner of an East New York property at 2632 West 13th St. under the business name Gravesend Realty, LLC.
The architectural firm, Shiming Tam Architects, a Borough Park-based firm, would be designing the 92nd Street hotel, the same firm that designed the East New York hotel, according to the documents.
“When you go on the website and you look at the hotel that he owns in East New York, you will see that it has not only homeless, but that there is prostitution and other crime at that location,” Golden said. “That is not what we want here.”
Prospective property owner Ankit Mehta denies that he owns or operates properties in East New York and further claims that he has never offered housing to the homeless or utilized vouchers in the hotel he currently owns near LaGuardia Airport.
He expressed to the Brooklyn Eagle his personal connection and devotion to Bay Ridge and the Bay Ridge community and said that if he were to build a hotel here it would be something he and the community would be proud of.
Golden also noted that the area along Fifth Avenue is congested with traffic leading to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and that a hotel would only add to the traffic backup along the avenue, not to mention the congestion when students are dismissed from school each day.
“When we arrived here at 2:30, we saw hundreds of children coming out of that school right across from us,” Donovan said. “And we don’t want them being exposed to what would be living here in this hotel if it was to be built. We have to do something for our homeless people, but a voucher program encouraging people to build hotels so that they can make money from the city is not the way to deal with the homeless problem.”
Malliotakis said that this was not a partisan fight.
“This is not political,” she said. “It’s about preserving Bay Ridge and giving us what we need in our community, which right now are more classrooms, senior housing and other types of housing.”
She called it a problem when hotel owners are being incentivized to turn hotels into homeless shelters, and that we should be focusing on permanent housing to help people transition from homelessness to having a home.
“We’ve got to keep the pressure up,” Brannan said. “The only way we will be able to kill this deal is to keep the pressure up on the folks who want to buy this land and a build a hotel. Then they’ll pull out of the deal. That’s the only way it’s going to happen. We’ve got to keep the pressure up. A hotel is simply not what we need here.”
Brannan added that he’s been working behind the scenes with the school construction authority, with City Hall and all the stakeholders to find a better resolution than building a hotel here.
“Over the next days and weeks, I hope we have some sort of resolution,” Brannan said. “But I’m in solidarity with everyone saying a hotel is not what we need.” In his remarks, Golden mentioned the ongoing problems the neighborhood has faced with the notorious Prince Hotel, a hotbed for drug use, prostitution and other criminal activities. Located at 315 93rd St., just blocks away from the prospective hotel, it’s also on the same block as a newly built universal pre-K at 369 93rd St. The Prince Hotel accepts vouchers for the homeless.
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