Castle Hill Neighborhood Betterment Association to meet with DOB over motel concerns

Senator Jeff Klein stands with members of the Castle Hill Neighborhood Betterment Association at a protest outside of the Manhattan headquarters of the NYC Department of Buildings on Tuesday, June 30. DOB has now agreed to meet with CHNBA.
Photo courtesy of Senator Klein’s office

It appears that the group protesting a motel being constructed along Bruckner Boulevard will get a sit-down meeting with top Department of Buildings officials.

The Castle Hill Neighborhood Betterment Association has been up in arms over the past year about technical issues they believe make plans for a new motel contrary to the zoning and other rules at 2338 Bruckner Boulevard.

After a protest in front of Department of Buildings headquarters in Manhattan on Tuesday, June 30, DOB is going to make available key personnel to meet soon with the group to review technical details relating to the construction plans, said CHBA leaders.

Meanwhile, construction on the Days Inn motel is continuing after a Stop Work Order was lifted in January.

CHNBA vice-president Fernando Penate said that his group believes that the construction is violating zoning and multiple dwellings regulations, as well as not being compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

“The goal is the meeting will yield something and they will reinstate the stop work order,” said Penate. “We hope it will yield something positive for the community and be a vindication of our efforts.”

Penate, who is an architect, said that based on the group’s interpretation of the New York City Zoning Resolution, the project’s six-foot setback is not to code. They believe the DOB regulations require a 20-foot setback.

The group received vague information from DOB in response to a letter as to why the Stop Work Order was lifted, said CHNBA president Hector Soto.

“They never responded to the legal issues and the general concerns,” said Soto, adding that the DOB’s original response seemed to be dismissive.

For its part, DOB confirmed that the agency will soon be meeting with the CHNBA association, and according to Penate, the invitation by DOB was made shortly after the protest and after representatives from the community group hand delivered a letter to the DOB commissioner’s office.

“The Department will continue to work with the community should safety or compliance concerns arise at this work site,” a DOB spokesman stated.

However, the DOB spokesman also stated in an email that a full audit was conducted at the worksite, which itself was the scene of rallies and picketing in 2014.

“Following concerns from local residents, the department conducted a full audit of this project,” stated the DOB spokesman. “After the applicant resolved objections related to the audit, the plans were determined to be in full compliance with all applicable construction codes and the NYC Zoning Resolution, and the job was permitted to move forward.”

According to Soto, the group has serious questions as to what the motel could become if its business plan is not profitible.

It is not clear whether or not it can be a destination motel, or simply a short-stay, ‘hot-sheet’ motel or even a shelter, as happened at the nearby Capri Whitestone Hotel in Ferry Point, he indicated.

In a statement, Senator Jeff Klein said that he stands with many of the local residents who feel that the establishment may not bring anything good into the community, and those who believe it has no place there.

“The DOB has green-lit a project without proper review of the violations it presents, and continues to ignore the voice of the Castle Hill community,” Klein said.

Klein added that he believes that motel and hotel projects going forward should be subject to community review as a matter of law.

A residential community abuts the site, CHNBA officials explained.

Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda and Councilwoman Annabel Palma have been supportive of the CHNBA’s efforts.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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