Residents Protest ‘Transient Hotel’
The signs read, “Tell The Developer, Not In Our Neighborhood,” “No Transient Hotel In Front Of My Home,” and “Where Are The Clients Coming From?”
The residents were gathered on Beach 44 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard on Monday night to protest a developer’s plan, recently approved by the city’s Department of Buildings, to build a “transient hotel” at the site and most of those who came to the protest did not like the plan.
While the developer has stated publically that the hotel would be used to house flight crews and travelers on layovers, many residents think it will wind up being used as low-income housing or for illegal activities.
Steve Cooper, the president of the Frank Avenue Civic Association, said that new homes had been built and new families had moved into the revitalized neighborhood under a series of urban renewal programs.
“We’ve been trying our best to turn the community around here,” said Cooper. “We have a stable community and a respected community.”
He also pointed to the lack of amenities for the residents of the hotel.
“We have no restaurants, the beach is closed here, the hospital is gone, there are very few stores and now we have a hotel.”
One stay-at-home mom, Kathy Sofronis, 35, said, “This thing has me petrified ... I’m not going to be able to come out with my son for walks or for play dates because of the kind of people that might end up living here.”
Becky Bonilla, a 40-year resident of Rockaway, said she has seen the change for the better in her community, “but, by bringing this hotel, this is not going to be for the better. We have to stick together to get this to stop because we are not going to be safe …. This is wrong.”
Some residents, however, are less worried about the proposed hotel.
Eva Bennett, who lives in the Beach 30s, believes that as long as the clientele is not Section 8, or the homeless it will be OK.
“We are a beach community,” said Bennett. “People come from all over for that. If it’s [airline personnel] they will need to put some stores here.”
Donovan Richards, the chief of staff for Councilman James Sanders Jr., was very blunt about the councilman’s position. “We have a clear message to these hotel owners – take your hotel to Manhattan,” said Richards. “The people of this neighborhood don’t need this hotel here.”
Richards added that Sanders and other elected officials have
“worked hard to revitalize the neighborhood.”
Richards did bring what could be some good news to area residents. He said that Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) told him that the developer “may have encroached and bought some city land.” But HPD is still investigating.
Dolores Orr, the chair of Community Board 14, updated area residents on the issue.
“The owner has agreed to meet with the land use committee of Community Board 14,” said Orr, who added that when a date is determined, the community would be notified.
In an email to The Wave this week Queens Borough President Helen Marshall’s representative, Dan Andrews, said, “We have concerns and wonder how this hotel could be within the vision of an Urban Renewal Area that was meant to build a unified community.”
The owner of the proposed six-story hotel, Amritpal Sandhu, told the Daily News that the facility would be part of the national La Quinta Inn chain.
In a statement, Congressman Gregory Meeks said, “We are in the process of contacting the president and CEO of the La Quinta hotel chain to confirm their involvement and to get more details about the proposed hotel.”
Sandhu said the hotel would be for travelers and airline crew from JFK Airport.
“We will have a shuttle to JFK for visitors and crew,” said Sandhu, who hopes to begin construction of the hotel by December of next year. “People who want to go see Manhattan can stay here and instead of paying
$300 a room they will pay $150.”
A hotel that fits that purpose, the Five
Towns Motor Inn, already exists on Rockaway Turnpike in Lawrence, about ten minutes from the airport.
Despite the owner’s assurances, residents are still wary. A protest at Sandhu’s residence is due to take place this weekend. Cooper also said that the Frank Avenue Civic will be holding a meeting in the very near future.
On Wednesday, Richards told The Wave that the land being used for the proposed hotel is actually part of the Edgemere Urban Renewal Area and that the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) actually owns the land.
Richards said that Sanders was working to have the HPD sell the land to the city rather than to the developer.