Are Fancy Hotels a Tipping Point for Williamsburg?

As more young people move into Williamsburg, the neighborhood is drawing tourists. (Joanna Socha/NY City Lens)

As more young people move into Williamsburg, the neighborhood is drawing tourists. (Joanna Socha/NY City Lens)

Even as more and more young people move into Williamsburg, and as long-time residents move out and pubs and bars proliferate, the neighborhood is apparently becoming a tourist attraction. And now this trend may have reached a turning point: The Yotel hotel chain has announced plans to operate a new hotel in the heart of the neighborhood.

And more hotels are on the way.

Yotel is known for its small, minimalistic but luxurious cabins with space-saving convertible bed, monsoon rain showers, and techno-walls with flat-screen TVs. The company motto is “a first class experience at an affordable price,” and a night at the existing New York Yotel in Times Square costs approximately $120. The chain also operates locations at the airports in London and Amsterdam.

Yotel’s Williamsburg plan assumes operating a new 110-cabin hotel at at the corner of Meeker Ave. and Lorimer St. Parts of the fourteen-story mixed-use building are also going to be used for six to eight residential condominiums, a separate parking deck, and an approximately 20,000 square feet of rooftop garden space. The project, planned to be completed in 2017, is being handled by the New York-based real estate developer Synapse Development Group.

And at least four or five other hotels are  under construction in various places in the area, according to Thomas Burrows, Chair of the Public Safety & Human Services committee of Community Board 1 in Brooklyn. Two hotels are under construction on Wythe Ave., he said: “One is called the Williamsburg Hotel, the other one is yet unnamed.” Burrows said that there are also plans for a hotel, also unnamed, at the corner of Meeker and Manhattan Avenues. And “other people have told me they know of a hotel going on Broadway somewhere,” Burrows said.

He regrets that community boards cannot influence building of the new hotels in the neighborhood. “The City of New York under the present mayor does not believe that hotels have to come through community, so they can open up without even telling us,” Burrows said. “Unless they want a liquor license. But if they want to build a hotel without a liquor license, according to the city planning they can build it and not tell us a thing.”

Burows thinks that going through community boards with new developments  would prevent some of the problems that the new hotels can cause. What kind of problems? Bogdan Bachorowski, chairman of the Service Level Agreement Review committee of the Community Board 1, said “The biggest issue is traffic and the parking spaces that they are going to take away.”

Marc Kushner, a principal of the architect company HWKN (Hollwich Kushner), said in the Yotel press release that, “Williamsburg deserves architecture that connects with its artistic bent and strives to match the richness and vibrancy of its culture.”

But the residents have mixed feelings about this kind of luxury. Those present at the Community Board 1 meeting in February pointed out that the unique thing about Williamsburg is still its family-oriented and calm atmosphere.

On the other hand, many young people say that change is unstoppable. “I think it’s just a case of gentrification. I just hope it’s keeping with the character of Williamsburg and Brooklyn. I am probably also a part of gentrification,” said 26-year-old Adam Peacock, who moved to Williamsburg three weeks ago from London.

Some Brooklynites point out that although changes might not be positive for people who rent apartments, it is not going to hurt everyone. “It is good for me, as a homeowner, because it helps property value,” said Athena Maroulas, a 32-year-old creative professional. “But on the other hand, we will have to deal with even more congestion in the L train.” She added that more people means more dollars for the small businesses in the area, and speeding up the local economy, “The businesses that I know that have been here for a very long time, I only see them grow. Sometimes I also see businesses pushed out,” Maroulas said. “But you know, it’s a free market.”

The Yotel spokesperson refused to provide details about the investment, explaining that “Things are very under wraps for now.”

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