Eric Adams Touts Hotel Conversions in Plan to Address Homelessness

(THE CITY LIMITS) David Brand, September 24, 2021

The empty hotel on 39th Street in Sunset Park first closed in 2015, after a police raid exposed it as a brothel. The next year, the Flushing-based owner of the property leased the place to a new operator, who promptly changed the name. The Phoenix Hotel was supposed to connote a fresh start, though many neighbors wanted a school at the site instead. 

Then the Phoenix went under. The boarded up shell, with dingy curtains still dangling in the windows, is one of three hotels on a two-block stretch of 39th Street.

On Monday, Eric Adams called for one more rebirth of the Phoenix, this time as permanent supportive housing for New Yorkers experiencing homelessness. The 44-unit hotel would serve as a piece of Adams’ plan—light on details—to convert shuttered lodgings outside Manhattan into 25,000 units of supportive and permanently affordable housing.

Adams, the Democratic nominee for mayor, said he will release more information about the hotel conversion plan on his website, but noted that he wants to improve coordination among city agencies and streamline the bureaucratic process that delays affordable housing production.

“When someone tries to convert this, what they must go through every time we try to do a conversion is just layers and layers of really outdated bureaucracy,” Adams told reporters in Sunset Park. “We have made the rules to fit around what the city no longer looks like and so we need to do a close deep dive into whatever rules we have in place and whatever agency that is to keep up those rules to get them out of the way so we can make this conversion.”

A spokesperson for Adams’ campaign, Evan Thies, said the ambitious 25,000-unit target is based on an estimate from the Hotel Association of New York City, which says 20 percent of the city’s hotel rooms may be permanently shuttered as a result of the pandemic. But many of those rooms probably won’t be part of Adams’ nascent proposal. For one, most are located in Manhattan, and Adams says he wants to convert hotels priced cheaper in the other four boroughs. And two, several of the 160 hotels that are currently closed are old and likely too expensive to easily convert to housing, said HANYC President Vijay Dandapani.