Destination: LES – Bracing For a Hotel Building Boom

Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the November issue of The Lo-Down’s print magazine.

Along upper Orchard Street one sparkling fall afternoon last month, young shoppers strolled in stilettos, popping in and out of the tiny, trendy boutiques that seem to multiply overnight lately. The perfume of fresh-cut flowers banked along a new corner bodega wafted down the block, overlaid with the pungent smell of roasted garlic from one of the pizza joints. Shopkeepers hawked leather goods on the sidewalk while workers hammered away inside Mi Casa Es Su Casa, yet another new restaurant opening soon. A woman with a suitcase asked directions to The Hotel on Rivington. A few blocks south, a group of tourists set out from the Tenement Museum for a walking tour of the way things used to be.

This eclectic mix — of the fashionable and the old-fashioned, the outgoing and the up-and-coming — forms a large part of the Lower East Side’s charm and draw. Combined with cheaper real estate prices than most of the rest of Manhattan and easy public transit access to  more tourist-centric parts of the city, the neighborhood’s character helps paint a portrait of a place that developers could envision new hotels succeeding.

City Gives Developer More Time to Finish 180 Ludlow

It looks like 180 Ludlow, one of a handful of languishing hotel projects on the Lower East Side, is one step closer to being resuscitated.  Financing woes, legal battles and problems with city permits idled the construction site more than two years ago. But at least one of developer Serge Hoyda’s obstacles in finishing the job has now been cleared.

In the past week, the Board of Standards and Appeals finally gave Hoyda the go-ahead to resume work on the 20-story hotel, which has plagued Ludlow Street businesses and residents for several years.  Initially, the city only gave him two years to complete the project (which was approved before new height limits were imposed on this block). Now he has another two years to get the job done (May 2013 is the new deadline).

So far, no new permits are showing up in the Department of Buildings’ computer system.  There’s been talk that Hoyda intends to sell the building site. As we reported a few weeks ago, Ira Yavarkovsky (who owned several parcels making up the development site), is suing Hoyda, alleging that Hoyda still owes him $12 million for the land.

Community Board 3 declined to support Hoyda’s application for an “extension of time,” in part, because he could not commit to hiring at least 20% local workers once the hotel opens for business.

Making Local Hiring Deals Work for Community

The future site of "Hotel Ludlow?"

Last week, we posted an update on 180 Ludlow, the terminally stalled hotel project ensnared in Building Department red tape as well as protracted litigation.  Now, a follow-up on another aspect of this story: Community Board 3’s efforts to require local hiring if/when the hotel opens for business.

A few weeks ago developer Serge Hoyda asked CB3 to support his application for a variance (an extension of time) that’s being considered by the Board of Standards and Appeals.  CB3 wanted Hoyda to sign “stipulations” promising that local residents would make up at least 20% of the hotel staff.

Explaining that it would be premature to make a specific commitment, his attorney, Jessica Loeser, said Hoyda could only agree to make “best efforts” to hire locally. In response, the community board voted not to support the BSA application.

CB3’s decision is unlikely to sway the BSA commissioners one way or the other, but the debate brought up some bigger issues concerning “community benefit agreements,” which real estate developers and other businesses occasionally enter into with local community boards.

Rabbi’s Ruling Complicates 180 Ludlow Lawsuit

The long saga surrounding 180 Ludlow – one of the neighborhood’s most infamous stalled construction sites – is taking more strange turns.

Next month, attorneys for developer Serge Hoyda return to the Board of Standards and Appeals, seeking a variance — a request for an extension of time to complete a 20 story hotel. The troubled project has been an eyesore on Ludlow Street for four years.

This past month, Community Board 3 declined to support Hoyda’s application,  in part because he could not commit to hiring at least 20% local workers once the hotel opens for business.  But the setback at the community board appears to be the least of his problems.

It seems Hoyda is also having to fend off a lawsuit from Ira Yavarkovsky, whose family owned three parcels that make up the hotel development site.  The Yavarkovsky’s operated a paper products company at 180 Ludlow from 1898-2007. The suit claims Hoyda only made one payment of $1.67 million and, four years after the title was transferred, still owes almost $12 million.

Good Morning!

Mostly sunny this morning, with clouds and rain showers moving in this afternoon and tonight. Still windy with a high of 57.

180 Ludlow Changing Hands?

According to Curbed, the owner of the terminally-stalled high rise development, 180 Ludlow, has a deal in the works to sell the “concrete skeleton” to another developer: