Owner Seeks Demolition Permit for Hotel that City Wants Preserved as Permanent Housing

The Marrakech Hotel occupies the upper floors of 2688 Broadway

By Joy Bergmann

Hank Freid’s hospitality company Impulsive Group has applied for a demolition permit to remove the second through fifth floors of 2688 Broadway (103rd Street) seemingly eliminating the Marrakech Hotel, one of three Freid-owned hotels on the Upper West Side that the City alleges are operating illegally.

In a lawsuit filed in 2017, the City seeks a preliminary injunction forcing Freid to cease operations at the Marrakech Hotel, the Broadway Hotel & Hostel [230 W. 101st Street at Broadway] and the Royal Park Hotel [258 W. 97th Street between Broadway and West End Avenue]. The City claims Freid’s practice of renting rooms to tourists violates the 2010 Municipal Dwelling Law requiring buildings with Class “A” SRO [Single Room Occupancy] Certificates of Occupancy to be used as permanent – not transient – housing.

Freid has vigorously fought the City. His attorneys argue the hotels, “have pre-existing vested rights to operate their SROs on a transient basis as a matter of law.” WSR covered the case in detail here.

Hank Freid’s Twitter profile picture

Next week the parties will again appear before Justice James d’Auguste seeking a decision on the motion for preliminary injunction after almost two years.

“The City remains committed to preserving 300 units of permanent housing,” said Alacia Lauer, a spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.

But if Freid’s Marrakech demolition permit goes through, more than 100 rooms may be destroyed. What does the City make of this latest twist?

“We cannot surmise Mr. Freid’s motive,” said Lauer.

Apparently Freid has had the idea for a while. Freid received approval for this same demolition plan back in 2012, but withdrew the job in 2017, according to Department of Buildings records.

Impulse Group executives and attorneys did not respond to WSR’s requests for comment.

Marrakech Hotel entrance on Broadway at 103rd Street

Larry Wood, Director of Organizing for the Goddard Riverside Law Project, shared a few theories from his perspective as a long-time housing advocate.

“Maybe it signals he’s throwing in the towel,” said Wood. “If he feels he’s going to lose the case and can’t do tourist rentals there, the next move may be to speculate on the site value for a new glass and steel tower. Maybe they want that permit approved so that even if the City wins, it’s a moot victory. The housing units are gone.”

Commercial tenants on the first floor of the property currently include a Starbucks and a 99-cent store. Wood continued, “Maybe he wants to raze the whole building, but has to wait for longer-term commercial leases to expire. It’s a valuable site to sell.”

According to Wood, there are no more permanent residents living in the Marrakech Hotel. “The last tenant recently moved out. He accepted a substantial buy-out, including relocation to another Hank Freid building.”

But Wood says his organization would like to see dozens of New Yorkers move into the property. “We would like to see the building preserved as affordable housing. Have it acquired by a non-profit that can run it and preserve income diversity in this neighborhood.”

Thanks to City Realty for the tip.

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 22 comments | permalink
    1. Sherman says:

      It looks like a decrepit and inefficient old building that should have been torn down decades ago.

      Maintaining SROs in a grimy building like this is not the best way to provide affordable housing.

      • B.B. says:

        True, but since construction of new SROs are forbidden by law whatever remains cannot be replaced.

        New York like many other states/local areas banned single room occupancy hotels out of what they mostly became by the 1950’s and 1960’s; very low income housing of the most louche sorts.

        By the 1970’s onwards most respectable persons who could fled SROs as they became heavens for drug dealers, prostitutes, along with other criminal elements.

        Other shoe fell when newly enacted laws/programs caused state and other mental hospitals to begin emptying out; discharging former patients into communities that were unequipped and or unable to cope.

        States never provided full funding for community based housing/programs for the mentally ill. What such disabled persons did receive was Medicaid and other assistance. This was like catnip to owners of SROs.

        In short order many SROs became warehouses for the mentally ill full of many of the same abuses as the old state institutions.

        No small number of SRO owners routinely and openly fleeced the mentally ill for all they could get. First by offering to “cash” their Medicaid checks with inflated fee surcharges. This and or offering to “loan” those people money against their checks; again at inflated fees if they bothered to explain anything at all. When checks arrived many found their account tab at the SRO consumed all if not most of the total sum.

        What SROs did not do was provide the health and other medical services mentally ill required. As such the places quickly became just like a any ward of a mental hospital, and worse all that activity spilled out into the streets/surrounding neighborhood.

        As to why the west side in general has so many SRO/welfare hotels, answer is simple.

        Many if not all are hotels from late 1800’s through say 1920’s or so. They were designed and built to a different standard of tourist accommodation (no in suite showers/baths, etc…). As newer and more modern hotels opened these older places moved further down in rankings to just above or at “fleabag” status.

        The other change was due to changes in transportation. Residence hotels were popular when people travelled by train and or ship which took days or weeks. Thus upon arrival people tended to say for several weeks or even months.

        Rise of the automobile, interstate highway system, faster trains, air travel (especially by jet) meant people didn’t have nor want to say for weeks on end. Thus all those residence hotels found themselves also wanting for customers.

    2. Rob G. says:

      No thanks, Mr. Wood. The existing “non-profits” and their problematic shelters for drug addicts and mental patients have already taken their toll on our neighborhood. We can’t handle any more and we can’t manage what we have already. The reality is that it’s time do something to stem the continuing decline in our quality of life here in the northern part of the UWS.

    3. Jose Habib says:

      Great news. I hope they tear down all 3 buildings and build something nice.

    4. John says:

      A 70 story tower would be great in that area.

      • Billy Amato says:

        It’s gonna be large but not 70 stories. It’s the rebirth of the very old Upper West Side 90s through 100s of buildings that have no such beaux-arts value to it.

    5. Lord Of The Slice says:

      they should tear it down and build a big Duanne Reade, or maybe CVS…oooh, I know: A BANK!!!

      We don’t have enough of these.

    6. Rick says:

      Its tough when property owners insist on having some say in what their property is used for. Crazy idea, that.

      • john says:

        He better get it done before 2020 when the socialist take over. They may seize it at that time.

    7. AC says:

      Been a resident of the UWS for over 50 years (born and raised). I too have complained in the past about over development and the changing fabric of the hood. But then I sat, reflected, and pondered , , , did the Upper West Sider of the late 1890s fret and complain when the Ansonias and Apthorps of their time were constructed? All hell must have broken when talks about tearing up B’way for an underground transportation system came about.

      As I’ve grown older, and a tiny bit wiser, I’ve come to realize that Generational Changes are inevitable. And such is life.

    8. Me3 says:

      The building may be grimy but the Romanesque arches and cornice are lovely. I hope Mr. Freid doesn’t feel compelled to tear it down but I fully understand his frustration with the city telling him who he can or can’t rent to. It would be wonderful to see a full restoration here if possible.

    9. Ivana Newhouse says:

      There is so much old, decrepit housing stock here on the UWS. I fully support efforts to modernize and create comfortable living space for more people. Not every building should be appropriated for ‘affordable housing’. Not every building is architecturally or historically significant. These kinds of self-styled ‘housing advocates’ are impediments to progress. Stand aside. The future is coming through.

    10. Maggie May says:

      Hang on. If a property owner fails to follow the laws of the city, there should be consequences.

      Building codes, zoning laws, fire codes — yeah, it’s a hassle to have to listen to The Man, but that’s the price of living 3 million to a small island.

      Same thing for the Municipal Dwelling Law. It’s the law. Just because you can buy a building doesn’t absent you from having to follow the same rules as everyone else has to vis-a-vis the usage of said property.

    11. your_neighbor says:

      Knock these decrepit buildings down and build something modern where working people would actually want to live.

      That whole stretch of Broadway is a wasteland and if someone is willing to spend their own money to improve even a small piece it should be encouraged.

      • Sarah says:

        You think a landlord running an illegal hotel is going to build something decent for working people? I don’t understand how people function in this city being that naive.

        • Woody says:

          I think it’s you that’s naive. Running an illegal hotel in a decrepit building where rents are limited and building a modern building aren’t mutually exclusive real estate activities.

    12. Rico charge says:

      I like the facade. Why not build something fresh and modern to go on top of it? The original floors could be designated for affordable housing and the new units could be for those who can afford it. Sounds like a win-win to me.

    13. B.B. says:

      Just for fun plugged the address into NYC property tax data photo online search.

      http://nycma.lunaimaging.com/luna/servlet/workspace/handleMediaPlayer;JSESSIONID=d4d0f82f-944d-4f60-a9e7-ecd04629b254?lunaMediaId=NYCMA~5~5~180102~552426

      Back in the 1939-1940 ground floor retail for 2688 Broadway was:

      Corner where Starbucks is now was split between some store cannot make out name. But next space was a Horn and Hardart “retail” or some such (cannot make out sign). There was a Horn & Hardart restaurant at Broadway and 104th located in what is now a landmarked building ( 2710-2714 Broadway).

      Next down was something called “Columbia Cafeteria” or something (again cannot make out the sign). On other side of door where the 99 Cents store is until end of building was “Columbia Bar”.

      Second floor was “Scmer Beauty Parlor” (above where Starbuck is now. Some other retail (cannot make out sign), then another beauty parlor. Maybe Scmer had the entire floor?

      Prior to becoming the Marrakech Hotel, second through top floors were the “Malibu Studios Hotel” which is mention in numerous travel guides from the 1990’s as everything from “gay friendly” to a “Gen-X kitschhaus”.

      In short the place was a budget hotel, perhaps fleabag hotel.

      https://www.yelp.com/biz/malibu-studios-hotel-new-york