David Gilcrest’s organization, in partnership with real estate company Fairstead, recently bought a historic hotel on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. It sat nearly empty for years, falling into disrepair.

Now it’s in the midst of a transformation.

Project Find and Fairstead are turning The Park 79 Hotel into deeply affordable apartments for seniors.

“And it will be connected to services built right into the building,” said Executive Director David Gilcrest. “This really reflects the fact that you value people and the architecture just speaks of dignity.”

Soon, other boarded up hotels will also be transformed.

What You Need To Know

  • A lack of affordable housing and the homeless crisis in New York were made worse due to pandemic

  • Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a new law Tuesday that makes it easier to convert underutilized hotels in New York, into permanent housing

  • The new law changes rules for zoning and certificate of occupancies allowing for faster, cheaper conversion of hotels into apartments

On Tuesday, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a new law which eases restrictions to allow the conversion of underutilized hotel space into permanent housing. It’s part of an effort to tackle the scarcity of affordable housing and the homeless crisis gripping many New Yorkers. Both problems were made worst by the pandemic.

“As New York’s Housing crisis continues to impact families, we’re taking bold action, embracing innovative ideas and thinking outside the box to help ensure that New Yorkers can access safe, live able and quality affordable housing,” Hochul said.

State Senator Brian Kavanagh, who sponsored the bill, says the city and state have already had the ability to turn hotels into shelters, which they did during the height of the pandemic. But this new law makes it a lot easier to turn them into housing by easing zoning restrictions and removing requirements to get new certificates of occupancies, a process that can take years and is much more costly.

“We’ve done a lot of work this year to fund more permanent housing but we also have a lot of rules and restrictions that make that difficult, Kavanagh said. “This bill clears a lot of those out of the way and will make it a lot easier to convert hotels into permanent housing.”

Some experts say it’s too soon to predict if this will become a long-term success, but they welcome any strategy to keep people off the streets and in permanent homes.

“Tourism is back up in the city. This is not coming at the peak of the pandemic, when everything was shutdown,” said Noah Kazis, a legal fellow at the NYU Furman Center. “Changes in the hotel industry, the special permit requirement may make existing hotels a little more valuable than they used to be. So, I think there’s a lot of questions about just how many will be done. That said, this is going to unlock certain projects that wouldn’t have been possible.”

The Park 79 Hotel will be completed in late July and will be home to more than 70 seniors. This project got underway before the new law took effect, so it took six years to get to this point. Now, red tape and additional costs will be cut with the signing of the governor’s pen.

“The affordable housing in New York City is dramatic. We have waitlists in our buildings that exceed seven years for some of the apartments, so anything that can unlock and untapped resource is a positive thing,” said Gilcrest.

Officials say at least 170 other hotels have been identified to possibly be converted.