State Senator Marty Golden met with members of the press on Friday, April 27 across the street from P.S./I.S. 104 to condemn, once again, the six-story, 63-unit hotel proposed for the long-vacant lot in front of which he stood.
The lot in question, 9114 Fifth Avenue, is opposite the notably overcrowded school and, aside from parking for the window purveyors next door, has been vacant and on the market at the hands of a Ridge-based seller for nearly a decade.
Now, there is finally a buyer – Ankit Mehta – and he remains under fire for his plans, permits for which were pre-filed with the Department of Buildings (DOB) just days before Golden’s first public protest of the proposal.
The pol again contended that the site – zoned for commercial use – would be better suited for a school, as the neighborhood is within the catchment area of one of the most overcrowded school districts in the city. In addition, he maintained, Bay Ridge does not need a hotel.
Nor, Golden said, does it need a homeless shelter – something, he alleged for a second time Friday, that the development will eventually become when its room do not fill up, citing properties Golden contends Mehta is connected to citywide that already utilize the system, as well as controversial hotel developer Sam Chang via an affiliation with McSam Hotel Group (all connections the buyer has repeatedly denied to this paper).
Mehta does, however attest to owning another hotel, though, not once, he said, has he done business with the Department of Homeless Services, Section 8 housing or other for-profit voucher programs.
“I have absolutely nothing against the homeless population – that’s just not what I’m in the business of,” Mehta told this paper previously, adding that one of his first jobs was in Bay Ridge and that he feels a strong connection to the ‘hood (his architect, he said, is also tied to the nabe). “I want to build a franchise hotel that makes the neighborhood proud and serves the community – the kind of hotel that this community has not had in decades.”
Golden’s office, on the other hand, alleges that a big name like “Mr. Hilton or Mr. Marriott” would likely never come to Bay Ridge and also that the buyer has connections to at least four separate hotels and could potentially be connected to another 20-something, the majority of them listed under LLCs all tracing back to one Long Island address the pol’s office contends leads to Mehta.
“Tell us where your LLCs are, let us see what your LLCs do and let us know what we are expecting at this very site,” Golden said, adding also that, with “only two to three hotels in all of Brooklyn that don’t accept homeless vouchers,” there’s no way this one won’t.
“We’ve been trying to get a hold of him for weeks,” the pol alleged, adding also that he and his staff had previously submitted a total of nine questions to Mehta and his representative and were still waiting on answers. Among them: Will the buyer make provisions for parking? Will he offer hourly rates? What provisions will he make for on-site security and will there be a lobby bar?
While the buyer maintains that he has responded to the pol’s inquiries, Golden and his staff still want more, including a list of all the hotels Mehta and Chang own, designating exactly which ones participate in the city’s homeless voucher system.
Mehta and his representative, Joel Schnur, had no problem answering those questions for this paper. The buyer stands by his non-connection to the East New York Inn, as well as to the homeless voucher program. He also said that there will not be a lobby bar and that he will not offer hourly rates.
“In this wonderful country of ours, a person/entity is considered innocent until proven guilty and a person/entity is not required to reveal all information on business and/or personal relationships unless he/she chooses to do so,” Schnur said. “For some unknown reason, Senator Golden and members of his staff have repeatedly been broadcasting lies and false information about Mr. Mehta and continue to do so at every opportunity even when told it isn’t the case. One can only guess that telling the truth is not convenient to the senator during an election year when he needs every vote he can get.”
Schnur’s statement further contends that, “No matter how many times we have said that Mr. Mehta does not have a business relationship with Mr. Chang nor does he own or co-own 60 LLCs with him, the canard is still repeated by Golden and staff.”
“The fact that Mr. Mehta has stated for the record that he does not own the East New York Inn and has no connection to it nor does he intend to charge hourly rates or apply for a voucher system for the homeless, Golden et al keep on repeating the charges,” he went on. “I guess the Big Lie lives on in their minds.”
Bay Ridge Community Council President Ralph Succar, who has opposed the project since its inception, said at the presser that it’s not appropriate to warehouse homeless people in a hotel. “A hotel is not quality living,” he said. “It’s not a [good] quality of life for the homeless. Low-income people need real, low-income apartments to live in and call themselves families. A hotel room is not a house.”
Golden agreed, adding also that, if deemed unfit for a school, senior housing should be explored.
In terms of its current plans, he said, “What is a 60-unit hotel in the middle of 92nd Street and Fifth Avenue gonna do for any builder, for any owner? Think about it. This is being built for two reasons: number one, hotel vouchers or number two, a quick sale. They’ll build it, they’ll put it up and they’ll flip it. And when they flip this hotel, Lord knows what we’re gonna get.
“Lord already knows,” the pol went on, “but unfortunately, we don’t. This is serious. This is our community. This is where our children and our children’s children are going to grow up. We need classrooms, not hotel rooms.”
The almost 4,000-square foot site isn’t zoned for a school; however, according to the Department of City Planning, it would not be impossible to build a school on the site. In fact, a special permit request was submitted to the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals in 2016 for a six-story expansion to Bay Ridge Prep at 429 89th Street – a nearby plot of land with the same C8-2 zoning.
Meanwhile, as for Mehta, Golden said, “He’s going to deny, deny, deny. Well then show us, show us, show us.”