An investor who is part of a consortium hoping to develop a three-story hotel on the site of the former Frozen Cup ice cream parlor in Bellerose was grilled by Community Board 13 members and neighborhood residents, who contended that such a structure does not belong in the community.
The exchange back and forth grew contentious after CB 13 member Marquez Claxton accused several other board members who opposed the proposed hotel of directing comments “tinged with racism and ignorance and bigotry” at the investor, who is Indian.
Mitesh Patel, the investor, was not required to detail his group’s plans before the board because the proposal complies with current zoning regulations, but he said he did so because he wanted to cooperate with the neighborhood.
“I’d like to work with the community, not against it,” he said.
Despite the gesture, Bellerose residents said a hotel is not appropriate for a suburban neighborhood and they were concerned such a building would harm their property values.
Angela Augugliaro, CB 13’s second vice president and the president of the Queens Colony Civic Association, said she has gathered more than 1,000 signatures from residents who were upset “that a landmark is being taken down in place of a hotel.”
She said Patel told her civic group last week that the hotel would provide six jobs for the community, but he later told a reporter that there would be more.
“That’s not going to make a major impact on employment in Bellerose,” Augugliaro said.
Patel said his group is investing between $8 million and $9 million to build a 44-room franchise hotel “with enough parking” at 249th Street and Jericho Turnpike in Bellerose.
He said he has been in the hotel business for 15 years and lived in Bellerose for 20 years.
Patel said a market survey showed hotels were wanted in the neighborhood.
“All these years, we’ve only had one option: the Floral Park Motor Inn,” he said. “We felt there might be a need.”
When asked about what benefits a hotel would bring to the community, Patel said, “the people visiting Bellerose, they need a place to stay. We create local jobs.”
CB 13 member Seymour Finkelstein, a Floral Park resident, said single-family homes “are being used as hotels” in the community.
“They’re renting their rooms to people from their country,” he said. It was unclear which people or country he was referring to.
“You’re changing our whole way of life, our whole neighborhood,” Finkelstein told Patel.
Claxton, a former police detective and member of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, said he felt offended by Finkelstein’s comment and from others who asked Patel if he was the same Patel who ran a supermarket on Hillside Avenue or a developer who had the same surname. Patel is a common name in India.
He said the comments were “tinged with racism and ignorance and bigotry.”
“Be careful in your language and conduct when you address people,” Claxton told the members. “This is not some foreigner. This is an individual in the community.”
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.
©2008 Community News Group
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