Update: Following last evening’s hearing, a majority of the Community Board 2 Land Use Committee voted to approve the new owner’s request for a variance to re-convert the Bossert to transient hotel use. The matter will now go to the full Community Board for consideration. We’ll keep you posted.
David Bistricer, buyer of the Bossert Hotel, was on hand for this evening’s hearing before Community Board 2′s Land Use Committee on his application for a variance to reconvert the grande dame of Montague to a “transient hotel.” While he didn’t speak, his attorney and several consultants offered these assurances: (1) it will be a hotel–indeed, a “sophisticated and upscale” (but not too upscale) hotel–not a dorm; (2) the beautiful lobby won’t be altered, but will become home to a first-class restaurant; (3) there will also be dining on the roof, but it will be very quiet; and (4) their studies of likely increases in traffic from guests arriving by taxi, limo or private car (they have an arrangement with Quick Park for valet parking service) and from delivery trucks indicate that the impact, compared with present conditions under Watchtower ownership, is not “significant.”
So, who liked it? The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, citing, among other things, the new owner’s “commitment to local hiring”; Glenn Markman, co-owner of Heights Cafe and soon-to-open Della Rocco’s, who said it will attract more business and perhaps more people to move to the Heights; Karen Johnson (who discovered she had a namesake in the audience), who “feels confident it will be done correctly”; the Montague Street BID, whose Executive Director, Brigit Pinnell, said the real comparison to be made was with alternative uses for the building, which include a dorm, a social services facility, or medical offices; and Borough President Marty Markowitz, whose spokeswoman said it will “help Downtown Brooklyn’s business community to thrive.”
Who had doubts? Brooklyn Heights Association Executive Director Judy Stanton asked what controls are in place to assure that this will be, and remain, a first class hotel. Consultant Jeff Klein said that the design, level of service, and room rates should do the trick. Ms. Stanton then noted that if the projections were wrong, there could be a large increase in taxi traffic. She also said she was concerned about guests arriving by private car; in particular, that they might have to wait in idling cars for valet service. Spokesmen for the buyer said that the assumptions made in the environmental assessment were “very conservative”, and that guests reserving rooms would be asked if they planned to arrive by private car, so that valet service could be scheduled to meet them.
Other cautionary messages came, unsurprisingly, from people living in the Bossert’s immediate vicinity. Several people from 200 Hicks Street expressed concerns. Richard F. Ziegler said the planned re-conversion “could be an asset [to the neighborhood] or an absolute devastating nightmare.” He found the statements made by the buyer’s attorney and consultants “confusing,” and said the residents of 200 Hicks had retained “high priced counsel” to represent their interests in the variance proceedings. Gretchen Dykstra, former City Commissioner of Consumer Affairs, expressed great concern about the rooftop lounge and dining area. She noted that a rooftop lounge at the Empire Hotel, also owned by Mr. Bistricer’s company, had become a venue for parties with DJs and loud music that went late into the night. When local residents complained, they were told that the owner wasn’t responsible; the space was leased to the organization[s] giving the parties. Kay Desai said more information was needed, and her husband, Rohit Desai, sternly warned Committee members that their failure to demand such information could be in violation of law.
Other neighbors with cautionary messages were David Green and Nils Larson, both Remsen Street residents. Mr. Green noted that the valet parking operation would result in an increase in traffic on Remsen because cars being taken from the hotel to Quick Park would have to go that way. Mr. Larson, a recent high school graduate, said he had grown up in Brooklyn Heights and always loved the neighborhood’s serenity. He has two much younger brothers who, because the local streets are safe, are able to walk to school and to squash lessons. He fears that the increase in traffic generated by the hotel may end that.