Pan American Hotel sale could be nearing its finish

Photo by Bill Parry
By Bill Parry

The sale of the iconic Pan American Hotel is expected to be completed next week.

Tom Donovan, the managing director at the real estate firm of Massey Knakal, could not discuss the deal for the seven-story, 86,500-square-foot hotel until the closing. The 216-room hotel at 7900 Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst has been fueling speculation in the neighborhood for weeks.

“A Chinese corporation bought it and wants to convert it into a shelter for the homeless,” said Newtown Civic Association president Thomas McKenzie.

“I hear the same thing,” Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) said. “But no one’s come to talk to me officially about it. I have found that no variances have been applied for, yet.”

The Pan American Hotel is owned by the Panamendel Corporation and its general manager, Joel Butnick, was not available for comment. Four documents were filed with the city Monday saying the mortgages have been satisfied, a sign that a sale is nearing completion.

“I don’t think it will be a good thing for this community,” McKenzie said. “The people that come to these are transient people. I know they need a place to live, but why is it always here in Community Board 4?”

“We haven’t heard anything official, but it’s a huge topic in the neighborhood,” CB 2 Chairman Christian Cassagnol said. “It would be a perfect location for a shelter, but it will be difficult to get it done. People are paranoid because of what’s happening in Glendale.”

Elected officials and neighbors rallied last month against the city’s plan to transform a vacant sewing mill and airplane part manufacturing plant in Glendale into a shelter for 125 families called Samaritan Village.

Lisa Black, spokeswoman for the Department of Homeless Services, said her agency has not been made aware of the new developers plans for Elmhurst.

“We don’t have any proposal yet, but they’d notify the community board first,” she said.

McKenzie knew the Pan American Hotel’s days were numbered when a half dozen small motels started popping up along Queens Boulevard in the last decade.

“Back in its hey-day it was quite a place,” he said. “The Tito Puente Orchestra was the house band every Thursday night in the Pan American Lounge during the mid-Seventies. People would come from all over the tristate to see Tito and they’d just stay overnight in the hotel. I’m sorry to see it go.” he said.

Reach reporter Bill Parry e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718.260.4538.

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