2008-05-09 / Top Stories

Hotel Development Dependent On Zoning Change

Will Lawrence Hotel Be Reborn?
By Nicholas Briano

The Lawrence Hotel was wrapped up last year after the façade began crumbling, but depending on the zoning proposal's outcome, it may be renovated and restored as another SRO hotel on Beach 116 Street. The Lawrence Hotel was wrapped up last year after the façade began crumbling, but depending on the zoning proposal's outcome, it may be renovated and restored as another SRO hotel on Beach 116 Street. The future of the dilapidated and deteriorating Lawrence Hotel, presently all wrapped up for safety and to hide its crumbling imperfections from Beach 116 Street shoppers, will be based on the outcome of a proposed zoning change that would allow it to become an eight-story building. The process for the approval of the new zones will begin on Tuesday and perhaps take several months to complete.

After reading on the Department of Buildings website that a permit had been requested by the building's owner, Vladimere Propokov. The Wave contacted him, to inquire about his intent for the Lawrence Hotel.

It turns out that any plans that Propokov might have for the abandoned building depend on whether or not Community Board 14 and subsequent agencies approve the proposed zoning plan. The first step will take place at Community Board 14 this Tuesday night.

The process, which is called the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP), also requires the approval of the Borough President and the City Council.

Propokov wants to turn the Lawrence hulk into an eight-story building that would include a big brand name retailer on the ground floor with parking, administrative offices, and apartments overlooking the ocean on the top floors of the building.

That is what he wants to do. If the zoning proposal is shot down by the community, however, he says he will restore the building into its original eight story hotel, something residents have publicly denounced on several occasions.

"There is not much I can do if the zoning doesn't change," he said. "If people don't want to change the zoning, then I will restore the hotel. Anything else is pointless."

The former hotel was put up for sale in March by the Brooklyn firm, Bergen Basin Realty, at $3 million.

Propokov says the zoning allows you to do many different things. He will only sell the building to a buyer with whom he has a good relationship, to ensure that his original ideas of a business and residential site will be carried out.

Sales representative, Juan Florez of Bergen Basin Realty, says the building is still for sale and has potential buyers, but the owner is exploring the option of developing the property himself and taking the hotel off the market.

"The owner is looking to develop the site back into a hotel," Florez said.

"I spoke to the owner and if nothing comes up within the next month, he will go ahead and develop it himself," he said.

Propokov, however, has taken the first steps with DOB by pre-filing his intentions that could eventually lead him into receiving the necessary work permit that would enable the restoration of the Lawrence Hotel.

Caroline Sullivan, spokesperson for the Department of Buildings says a pre-filing is very preliminary and only informs DOB of basic intent.

"The owner has not submitted any plans or applications for a work permit yet," she said.

She continued to say that after the pre-filing period, which can vary in length, the builder has to submit a formal application with his specific plans and if it complies with DOB regulations then a work permit is granted.

In the meantime, the hotel remains a burden to Beach 116 Street inhabitants. The façade had begun falling into the street and the old summer hotel became a home to hundreds of pigeons, until the city boarded it up last year.

At the height of Rockaway's prosperity, the hotel was a haven for summer visitors and a desirable place to stay for the season.

Upon its demise, in the 1950's, the Lawrence Hotel was turned into a residence to temporarily house welfare recipients, until a permanent spot was found for them. However, it became the home to drug dealers and families with no resources, and panhandlers flooding the street.

The realty company had originally hoped to sell the structure, under the assumption that the city would rezone the area to allow for expanded development.

The city thinks the new zoning will bring much-needed commercial development to the area. Many locals, however, think the plan would result in a building that would create a population and user density too high for a beachfront area.

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