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Front Page November 14, 2013  RSS feed

‘Hell Hotel’ Builder Eyes LIC

Residents Fear It Will Become Homeless Shelter
by Max Jaeger

A rendering of the bike lanes proposed for Community Board 2. A rendering of the bike lanes proposed for Community Board 2. A possible homeless shelter and a proposal to put bike lanes through Sunnyside dominated discussion during Community Board 2’s meeting at Sunnyside Community Services last Thursday, Nov. 7.

Residents said they were concerned that a developer who controlled one shelter dubbed the “Hell Hotel” may be coming to 21-16 44th Dr. in Long Island City.

Community Board 2 Chairperson Joseph Conley said the board does not know with certainty what will be built at the site, but it has “no knowledge” of a homeless shelter.

The board contacted the Department of Buildings (DOB), which indicated plans submitted for the site call for a basement, first-floor retail and 41-43 Class-A apartments, he said.

Class-A apartments generally serve as permanent residences, according information from the city.

The lot is zoned for residential and commercial uses, and developers may build on the site without undertaking the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.

“They’re not required to come to the community ... but this is on our radar now,” Conley said.

Resident Evelyn Bernal Yaffe questioned the record of developers tied to the land, providing a dossier of information on the applicants.

Alan Lapes, whose name appears on several work permits issued to the site on Oct. 25, has a history of operating nonprofit shelters, which provide the homeless with rooms that are subsidized by the city.

Published reports indicate Lapes has a checkered past with homeless shelters. In 2007, the New York Daily News dubbed one of his tenements a “Hell Hotel.”

Department of City Planning (DCP) records show the land is owned by a shell company called 21-12 LLC. The organization also controls neighboring 21-12 44th Dr., city records show.

DOB records indicate the property is owned by Sharon Olson.

Olson is a principal at Amsterdam Hospitality Group, which manages hotels and homeless shelters. In 2012, Capital New York reported that Lapes has converted at least two of Amsterdam’s properties into shelters.

In 2006, the New York Post reported that Lapes was once a paid employee of Amsterdam Hospitality Group.

A complaint filed with the DOB on Tuesday, Nov. 12, states there is no demolition permit on display at the site though the roof has been taken down.

In addressing the board last Thursday, Conley advised that creating a homeless shelter would require further review.

“If somebody was coming back to change the use, there has to be a process that they have to go through,” he said.

Bike routes

The board also saw a presentation from the Department of Transportation (DOT) regarding new bike lanes for Sunnyside and other parts of the community district.

The bike routes are intended to provide the borough with additional north-south transportation alternatives, according to Inbar Kishoni, a project manager with the DOT’s bike program.

The agency is proposing dedicated bike lanes along 39th Street Bridge 49th Avenue between Skillman Avenue and 11th Place, and 51st Avenue.

Several streets would have shared bike lanes, including 47th and 50th avenues, as well as portions of 11th and 39th streets and Skillman Avenue.

Pulaski Bridge connectors will also recieve lanes to facilitate inter-borough travel, it was noted.

Conley asked DOT representatives to investigate the possibility of adding more bicycle parking throughout the district.

In addition, a left turn lane will be added to Skillman Avenue at Thomson Avenue, which will cost the neighborhood two parking spaces, DOT officials noted.

The agency held public workshops in March and July of last year to take community input during the design process, it was noted.

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Community Board 2 generally meets on the first Thursday each month at 7 p.m. at Sunnyside Community Services, located at 43-31 39th St. The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 5.