From the Times Ledger:
Community Board 7 held a raucous Monday night meeting where it approved an 18-story hotel in downtown Flushing that will be attached to a nine-story medical center.
The board voted 30-8 to give developer Richard Xia permission to circumvent zoning laws and use his $60 million gleaming glass building, already under construction at 42-31 Union St., as a 161-room hotel.
The existing zoning allows for residential use or long-term hotel uses, but the developer is arguing that he will not be able to get a reasonable return on his money and asked the board for what is known as a variance to house a short-term hotel instead. Technically, a patron of a long-term hotel has to stay for at least a month.
The board’s vote is advisory and the decision is ultimately up to the city Board of Standards and Appeals.
Mitchell Ross, the lawyer who wrote the variance application, outlined several reasons why the developer believes he deserves relief from the laws that regulate the use of the building.
First, the irregular shape of the lot and the subpar soil conditions increased construction costs, and income levels around the building are not high enough to make luxury apartments economically feasible, he said.
He also argues in his variance application that flight noise from LaGuardia Airport would deter long-term renters — an argument that could be applied to nearly every block in the downtown Flushing area.
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) sent a representative to express his disapproval, citing complaints about the construction at the site. Several neighbors testified about structural damage to their buildings and excessive noise.
But Avella’s testimony ignited shouting from both Sweeney and CB 7 Chairman Gene Kelty.
“I resent the fact he is not the senator from the district,” Sweeney said.
Kelty and Avella’s aide, Dawa Jung, then had a back-and-forth argument about CB 7 protocol and a disagreement the two had years ago.
Urban planner Paul Graziano, who is also running for City Council, testified against granting the variance, saying the builders brought these conditions on themselves.
“I would just build a smaller building,” he said, arguing that would solve many of Xia’s financial hardships.
But according to Joe Sweeney, chairman of the CB 7 Land Use Subcommittee, the short-term hotel would be the least intrusive. The building’s shape will not change, but short-term guests might drive less and instead take hotel-provided shuttles to the airport and downtown Flushing.
Ok, so here we have community board members pissed at a State Senator from outside the district for getting involved in a project at the request of local residents instead of getting peeved about the State Senator for the district staying silent. Then we also have the same members pushing for the variance on behalf of the developer. Interestingly, Chuck Apelian did not show up for this meeting. Paul Vallone was one of the "yes" votes. The soil is subpar because there is a river flowing beneath the property, but no discussion of that by the board.