By Joy Bergmann
Just weeks after the Department of Buildings cited the Park 79 Hotel at 117 West 79th Street for operating a hotel without a valid certificate of occupancy, the hotel has stopped taking reservations and an owner says it will be undergoing renovations. Just how long those renovations may last, and whether the hotel will contest the violations is still unclear.
“The hotel is not closing. There’s going to be renovation going on,” one owner, Larry Goldstein, told us on December 24th, noting that no guests would be accommodated during the renovation. He would not say what kind of renovation was being undertaken.
Hotel staff are telling guests they can’t book rooms this month. Managers declined to comment.
The building shouldn’t have been used as a hotel, the Department of Buildings alleged in one of 13 open Environmental Control Board violations issued on November 17th. Its Certificate of Occupancy says it is supposed to be a “single room occupancy” building. SROs were built to provide affordable housing to low-income adults; rooms have tended to rent for $500 to $1,000 per month.
However, hotel sites like TripAdvisor and Booking.com have had the Park 79 among their listings since at least 2007. Visitors have typically paid $259 for a queen accommodation, a front-desk clerk said. The boutique hotel has 108 rooms.
Goldstein did not answer messages Monday seeking comment on the alleged violations or the existence of a Certificate of Occupancy allowing for hotel use.
Park 79’s owners may choose to fight or to comply with the DOB’s requests at upcoming hearings this month in the Office of Administrative Trials & Hearings [OATH]. The potential penalties are high, especially for a Class 1 violation of the City’s rule against illegal hotels. According to OATH spokesperson Marisa Senigo, the owners could face a $3,200 fine plus daily penalty of up to $45,000 for just one of the 13 alleged violations.
Dan Evans, tenant organizer at Goddard Riverside Law Project, said he isn’t surprised that Park 79 could operate openly as a hotel in possible violation of the Multiple Dwellings Law. “It’s much more lucrative for landlords to rent to tourists than tenants. And unless a tenant calls 311 and files a 4A complaint, they get around the law.”
What happens next with Park 79 remains a mystery.
Photo by Joy Bergmann.