Castle Hill residents and their elected officials held a spirited Saturday protest of the construction of a new Days Inn they believe is ‘a hot sheet motel’ in the making.
Senator Jeff Klein and Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda joined with the Castle Hill Betterment Association on Saturday, October 18 to protest the construction. The CHBA thinks a 60-room inn at the site could become a hub for possible blight, illicit activity and prostitution, according to several of the protestors.
Klein and Sepulveda announced their intention to introduce legislation which would require some community review, albeit not veto power, every time a new motel or hotel is planned in Bronx county.
Then, the community and Klein engaged in some picketing of the site at 2338 Bruckner Boulevard, chanting in both English and Spanish. Some of the chants were: “What do we want?/ community respect/ when do we want it?/ now!” and “Our community: yes!/the motel: no!,” among about eight others.
Calling a Department of Buildings Stop Work Order that halted construction several weeks ago an important early victory, Klein said in front of scores of protestors it will be a long, hard fight.
“Any motel that would provide day rates creates the potential for a ‘hot sheet motel’ and the conditions for potential illicit and illegal activity that could hurt this otherwise strong community,” said Klein. “I stand with the residents of Castle Hill in saying ‘no’ to this type of establishment.”
He added: “Moving forward, any hotel or motel expecting to open in the Bronx needs to be subject to community review as a matter of law.”
The Days Inn is being built as an “as of right project,” meaning that does not require comment from Community Board 9 and it complies with the current zoning, though Wiliam Rivera, the board’s chair, said that the board met with three of the business partners in the motel after the Stop Work Order was issued.
CHBA member and architect Fernando Penate has said that he believes that based on his interpretation of the zoning, a motel would need to be set back from the Bruckner Boulevard service road further than plans show.
“The Castle Hill Neighborhood Betterment Association is continuing with the collective effort of our community residents and our elected officials with our campaign in seeing that this project will not go through and that the Stop Work Order will remain in effect, until a more viable solution, that will satisfy the community, is reached.” said Penate.
Leading the protest chants with a megaphone was Hector Soto, a CHBA member and attorney.
“The administrative process used in the Department of Buildings includes an appeals process,” he said, adding that if the DOB’s final determination is not satisfactory then legal action could and will be taken.
Sepulveda said that he was proud to see the community come together to express their opposition to the plan.
“Members of this community are telling developers that if you want to come into our neighborhoods, they have to be at the table,” he said. “I will continue to fight with our communities against these types of businesses. I hope to see the Department of Buildings thoroughly examine the community’s concerns that have been brought to their attention and come to a resolution on this matter.”