For Fine Times, the developer that wants to open a “residential” hotel on West 68th Street, their last community board meeting was anything but.
The company faced push back for their plan to restore its historic, Beaux Art-style row house. In turn, Fine Times, a luxury rental company with 26 buildings in Manhattan and Brooklyn in its portfolio, would get to operate a private residential club—never before done in New York City. An individual or entity could rent the space for no less than a week and a maximum of a month. The client could bring up to 22 overnight guests or host an event with a maximum of 50 people in the building at once.
Board members and nearby residents detailed a litany of fears about what this kind of operation would bring to their quiet residential street: daily late-night cocktail parties, noise, trash, traffic, limousines, body guards, fashionistas, mid-day drinking, wealthy foreigners, and, in the words of one community board member, the potential for “the most expensive bordello on the Upper West Side.”
Stephen Leonard, president of the 74 W. 68th Street co-op board, was worried that Fine Times’ would cater to the demands of their wealthy customers that rent the space for parties and events rather than neighbors.
“Are they really going to tell the CEO of a major corporation to lower his voice as he leaves the building at 2 a.m.?” Leonard told the community board. “It’s not hard to imagine the disruption this will create.”
David Lindsay, a commercial real estate lawyer, worried that a client and their overnight guests, would start to have fun early in the day.
“This hotel will be rented to groups that know each other and every night at 5 o’clock, they will want to have fun,” Lindsay said. “I don’t know if I want to live next to that 365 days a year.”
But the managing director of Fine Times Joseph Lopez tried to highlight the strict set of rules crafted with the local block association that the company and guests would follow. If the building was simply residential, Lopez argued, a tenant can be loud and boisterous with little consequence or recourse for neighbors.
Mitch Korbin, the company’s attorney, told the community board that the set of rules Fine Times and the West 68th Street Block Association “contains a lot of controls, for everything to hours of occupancy, to when the garbage is picked up.”
Adrienne Stortz, president of the block association, supported Fine Times’ plan because of the restorations to a currently empty building.
The proposal blindsided many opponents of the plan that attended the community board meeting. Despite, the fact that the proposal has been known since April 2009 and been the subject of several community board meetings, residents said they only found out about the project after seeing signs posted on their block for a September meeting with the block association.
“This proposal has not received significant review from the community,” said Jonathan Cohen, a resident of 80 Central Park West.
Lopez, the managing director of Fine Times, countered that the company and the block association did extensive outreach to the community. They led tours of the building and met with the co-op board of 80 Central Park West, whose residents were opposed to the plan and felt they were blindsided.
“The most disappointing thing… last night was how it was made to look like we didn’t do any community outreach,” Lopez said.
At the end of the lengthy debate, community board members panned the project, especially after contention about how many people can rent out this space. Board members also believed the community needed to be informed of the plan before lending its support. Also, members thought Fine Times would be renting out the building to one client. But in the agreement with the block association, used the word “primarily,” which gave Fine Times wiggle room to rent out the building to more than one client at a time. The company agreed to limit the space to one renter at a time.
After the board rejected the proposal 29 to 4, Lopez said the company is debating its options, which includes retooling its application and resubmit the plans to Community Board 7 or go on to the City Planning Commission.
“We’re seeing our options, including going back into making it a multiple-dwelling building,” Lopez said.
Trackback from your site.