Call to Action: Attend Oct. 22nd Hearing on Midtown East Rezoning

Hotel Voice — October 16, 2013

The New York City Council will be holding a hearing on the proposed rezoning of Midtown East on Tuesday, October 22, and the Union is asking members to attend the event. It is not expected that the hearing will be able to accommodate all members of the public — including members of our Union — who wish to attend, but a large turnout will certainly send an important message to members of the City Council who will be voting on the rezoning. That message is that the Union opposes the rezoning the way it is proposed. The Union wants the City Council to vote “no” and kill the proposal. The October 22 hearing is being held at City Hall, and members are being asked to be there at 9:00 a.m.

The reason the Union opposes the rezoning proposal that is the subject of the October 22 hearing is that it does not include special permits for hotels.

Most members will understand the extreme importance of this issue. The City of New York wants to rezone this area in order to give more air rights to developers. Under this plan, more skyscrapers will be built and many existing properties will be torn down. As we have reported before, any rezoning of Midtown East without special permits for hotels is a major threat to our Union. Without special permits a lot of non-union hotels would be built in this area and this would weaken our power in the hotel industry. Making matters worse, the lack of special permits might tempt developers to purchase and tear down existing union hotels in the Midtown East area and replace them with non-union hotel properties or office buildings, condominiums, etc.

There are approximately 7,500 workers already employed in the hotel industry in the affected area, most of whom are members of our Union.

As many members will recall, there have been three previous hearings about this rezoning proposal. On all three occasions the Union mobilized hundreds of members to attend. But the hearing on October 22 is the most important one of all. That’s because the Midtown East rezoning proposal faces an up or down vote before the City Council and the Union wants to make it clear that without special permits the proposal should be rejected.

A large turnout of Hotel Trades Council members at the three previous meetings has brought results. But while some progress was made in the language of the Midtown East proposal, it is far from what is needed to protect both the thousands of members of our Union who work in existing hotels in that area as well as the rest of the membership of our Union.
Under the way the rezoning language is currently worded, developers would still have the opportunity to create new, non-union hotels, especially smaller boutique hotels. Obviously, the only way to protect members’ jobs is if special permits are applied to all hotels — large and small — as part of the redevelopment of Midtown East.

This is a crucial issue for our Union and our membership because there are already 29 hotels in Midtown East. The employees of these hotels make up a full 17 percent of the New York City hotel industry’s employees. The majority of these hotels are large, full-service hotels with meeting and event space, and almost all are unionized. The replacement of these hotels — as well as the construction of new ones without special permits — represents a serious threat to our Union and to our members and their families.

On Tuesday, October 22, the Union is hoping to demonstrate to City Council members that they should reject the current proposal for Midtown East. This would give everyone the opportunity to go back to the drawing board and come up with a proposal that ensures that good-paying jobs with benefits will be part of any rezoning of Midtown East. Members can help get this message across by coming to City Hall on Tuesday, October 22 at 9:00 a.m