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The new ‘heartbreak hotel’

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A new hotel in the borough, open and doing business for nearly a year, needs to get a special permit quickly to avoid being shut down, thanks to a Department of Buildings (DOB) misstep.

Kings Hotel, at 820-824 39th Street, opened in January, 2009, but is now seeking the special permit so it can remain in operation, after DOB issued all the necessary permits for its construction, as well as the temporary Certificate of Occupancy that enabled it to open its doors initially.

“Everything was done lawfully, with approved plans and permits,” stressed Harold Weinberg, the engineer who is representing the hotel in its effort to secure the special permit.

Nonetheless, according to Peter Rebenwurzel, zoning chairperson for Community Board 12, a disagreement between the DOB’s Brooklyn office and the legal department at the agency’s Manhattan headquarters now has the hostelry scrambling to get the city’s Board of Standards & Appeals (BSA) to approve a special permit application.

Rebenwurzel updated board members on the situation during the board’s December meeting, which was held at the Amico Senior Center, 5901 13th Avenue. Board members present then voted unanimously to support the special permit request, which will be heard by BSA on January 12.

There’s a degree of irony in the application, noted Rebenwurzel. The hotel, which is as of right at the location, replaces an old auto body shop that was not, he explained, and is a far better match for the residential district immediately adjacent to the property. In addition, the new building’s four-story height is within what is permitted by the zoning.

“The question is, if the construction was done legitimately and the use is as of right, why is the application coming to us?” Rebenwurzel went on.

“The problem is that the question is better than the answer,” Rebenwurzel continued. Indeed, he told board members that because of the DOB’s internal disagreement %u2013 which revolved around what he described as “basement excavation” %u2013 the hotel owner was “advised it was easier and faster to get an approval by going to the BSA and us, instead of fighting the DOB in court.”

“We believe that DOB made a mistake, in that, after the job was approved and the C of O issued, someone thought it had been approved in error because the ground floor had a concrete slab and the concrete slab was removed,” said Weinberg in a subsequent interview.

That person, Weinberg went on, “interpreted the law (to mean) if you remove the floor, you remove the zoning rights.” While the hotel had originally filed a challenge to the DOB’s finding, he went on, “After the hearing, the BSA called me and said it would be better for us if we filed for a special permit to allow the hotel to have a one-story segment in the 30-foot rear yard.”

By press time, DOB had not responded to a request for comment.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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