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Laurelton residents had long feared that a construction site in their neighborhood, when completed, would in fact be a hot-sheet motel, so they rejoiced when the city recently issued a stop work order at the site.
“It is improper to have a hot-sheet hotel 75 feet from a school,” said Councilmember James Sanders, who represents the area and, along with the residents of Laurelton and neighboring Springfield Gardens, has expressed his opposition to the project, located on 219-05 North Conduit Avenue.
“We know exactly what he’s bringing here,” said Michael Duncan, chief of staff for Sanders, about the intentions of the developer, Saliesh Gandhi. Duncan explained that the community was suspicious because Gandhi already owns three hot-sheet hotels in New York City, two of which are in Queens. “He has had nothing but problems at these hotels,” Duncan said.
Another thing that raised the residents’ suspicion was Gandhi’s decision to build the hotel on the residential blocks of Laurelton, rather than in the vicinity of John F. Kennedy Airport, which is nearby, said Duncan.
So, the community was exuberant when on September 9 the Department of Buildings (DOB) issued a full stop-work order for the site due to non-compliance with the area’s zoning regulations. The developer intended to build a hotel with three floors and a cellar, according to Charlie Ratzer, DOB spokesperson.
Only five days before the issuance of the stop-work order, the city implemented a new zoning regulation for Laurelton, under which only small-scale commercial construction is permitted on that particular block. Under the old zoning, a larger range of commercial construction, including hotels, was allowed for that location, according to the Department of City Planning.
The developer can appeal the DOB’s decision in front of the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals, which is what he intends to do, according to published reports.
“He’s certainly welcome to try. We too will be there; we’ll meet him,” Sanders said. “We will see.”
Even with the new, more stringent, zoning rules intended to fend off developers like Gandhi, there would always be people trying to implement unwelcome projects, Sanders said. “It’s just like one of those Gothic movies where you believe you just stopped the beast and it keeps coming back.”
That’s why the community has to stay alert, he warned.

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