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Courier/Photos
Courier/Photos

The City University of New York (CUNY) is aiming to check in to the borough’s new hotel hotspot.

CUNY recently sent out a request for proposal (RFP) to hospitality industry consultants, seeking ideas on how to develop its lot on Skillman Avenue in Long Island City nearLaGuardia Community College — with the goal of building a teaching hotel, as well as other academic facilities, for its students.

According to CUNY spokesperson Michael Arena, the facility would be both commercial and educational, with students comprising the staff of a fully-functional hotel.
“The hotel and tourism sector is rapidly growing in New York City. There are many jobs connected to it, and there is a strong need for it,” Arena said. “The idea of students being able to take skills they are learning in the classroom and use them in a professional environment is tremendous. That’s what internships are, but in this case we will have the facility connected to the academic program.”

Arena referenced the positive impact of similar facilities at both Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania as motivation to develop the lot.
Dr. Gail O. Mellow, LaGuardia’s president, also believes the educational opportunities would be vast and highly positive.
“The hotel’s location near LaGuardia would give our students hands-on experience in seeing and helping run a major hotel,” she said. “Students studying accounting, tourism, food and nutrition, marketing and more would have the ability to apply the skills they learned in the classroom to a real-world setting. The educational benefits would be outstanding.”

Zoning permits CUNY to use up to 600,000-square-feet of the lot — part of which is currently used for parking – without the trouble of variances.
Thus far, the response from the private sector has been strong.

“There has been a lot of interest in the site,” said Arena. “The response has been very positive. The RFP went out identifying companies that have expertise in the area, and those companies are responding very strongly.”

Rob MacKay, the director of tourism for the Queens Economic Development Corporation (QEDC), called the project “fantastic news.”

“The hospitality field is very stable in Queens right now, and residents should be able to have solid, long-lasting careers in the industry,” MacKay said. “Furthermore, with the Resorts World Racino, plans for two convention centers, new media interest and TV shows based in borough, I predict that the field will grow exponentially in the near future.”

According to MacKay, city records show more than 7 million visitors spent over $3 billion in Queens in 2010, and the travel sector currently supports roughly 16 percent of the jobs in the borough.

Arena says the decision to develop the plot was based on the premier real estate factor – location.

“It is in a vibrant community close to Manhattan – only a five minute train ride to Times Square,” he said.

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