Bossert Plans Draw Cheers and Caveats

Update: Following last evening’s hearing, a majority of the Community Board 2 Land Use Committee voted to approve the new owner’s request for a variance to re-convert the Bossert to transient hotel use. The matter will now go to the full Community Board for consideration. We’ll keep you posted.

David Bistricer, buyer of the Bossert Hotel, was on hand for this evening’s hearing before Community Board 2’s Land Use Committee on his application for a variance to reconvert the grande dame of Montague to a “transient hotel.” While he didn’t speak, his attorney and several consultants offered these assurances: (1) it will be a hotel–indeed, a “sophisticated and upscale” (but not too upscale) hotel–not a dorm; (2) the beautiful lobby won’t be altered, but will become home to a first-class restaurant; (3) there will also be dining on the roof, but it will be very quiet; and (4) their studies of likely increases in traffic from guests arriving by taxi, limo or private car (they have an arrangement with Quick Park for valet parking service) and from delivery trucks indicate that the impact, compared with present conditions under Watchtower ownership, is not “significant.”

So, who liked it? The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, citing, among other things, the new owner’s “commitment to local hiring”; Glenn Markman, co-owner of Heights Cafe and soon-to-open Della Rocco’s, who said it will attract more business and perhaps more people to move to the Heights; Karen Johnson (who discovered she had a namesake in the audience), who “feels confident it will be done correctly”; the Montague Street BID, whose Executive Director, Brigit Pinnell, said the real comparison to be made was with alternative uses for the building, which include a dorm, a social services facility, or medical offices; and Borough President Marty Markowitz, whose spokeswoman said it will “help Downtown Brooklyn’s business community to thrive.”

Who had doubts? Brooklyn Heights Association Executive Director Judy Stanton asked what controls are in place to assure that this will be, and remain, a first class hotel. Consultant Jeff Klein said that the design, level of service, and room rates should do the trick. Ms. Stanton then noted that if the projections were wrong, there could be a large increase in taxi traffic. She also said she was concerned about guests arriving by private car; in particular, that they might have to wait in idling cars for valet service. Spokesmen for the buyer said that the assumptions made in the environmental assessment were “very conservative”, and that guests reserving rooms would be asked if they planned to arrive by private car, so that valet service could be scheduled to meet them.

Other cautionary messages came, unsurprisingly, from people living in the Bossert’s immediate vicinity. Several people from 200 Hicks Street expressed concerns. Richard F. Ziegler said the planned re-conversion “could be an asset [to the neighborhood] or an absolute devastating nightmare.” He found the statements made by the buyer’s attorney and consultants “confusing,” and said the residents of 200 Hicks had retained “high priced counsel” to represent their interests in the variance proceedings. Gretchen Dykstra, former City Commissioner of Consumer Affairs, expressed great concern about the rooftop lounge and dining area. She noted that a rooftop lounge at the Empire Hotel, also owned by Mr. Bistricer’s company, had become a venue for parties with DJs and loud music that went late into the night. When local residents complained, they were told that the owner wasn’t responsible; the space was leased to the organization[s] giving the parties. Kay Desai said more information was needed, and her husband, Rohit Desai, sternly warned Committee members that their failure to demand such information could be in violation of law.

Other neighbors with cautionary messages were David Green and Nils Larson, both Remsen Street residents. Mr. Green noted that the valet parking operation would result in an increase in traffic on Remsen because cars being taken from the hotel to Quick Park would have to go that way. Mr. Larson, a recent high school graduate, said he had grown up in Brooklyn Heights and always loved the neighborhood’s serenity. He has two much younger brothers who, because the local streets are safe, are able to walk to school and to squash lessons. He fears that the increase in traffic generated by the hotel may end that.

Photo: Brownstoner.

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  • A math major

    Don’t get me wrong — I’d LOVE to see the building become a hotel. And thank you to everyone who attended the event to protect the neighborhood.

    Oy. I’m fairly sure these valet parking staff members will drive as fast as humanly possible. After all, their job (and tips) depend on quick service. I also anticipate massive traffic jams (with lots of honking) on Montague as valets or guests are waiting to pull over In front of the hotel and block the street.

    Second, the new owners compare traffic to the current levels at the Bossert. But has anyone asked the Witnesses what their current occupancy rate is? And what percentage of those guests arrive by car? Because I walk by every day and frequently see a car (always a minivan really) loading or unloading, but curiously never a traffic jam.

    Third, I think the neighborhood needs something in writing about noise levels and a cutoff hour from the roof space.

  • A math major

    Oh, and I assume they’ll make these traffic studies available to the public? Or at least the BHA? Because without seeing them I strongly question their validity and their use of the vague phrase “not significant” in terms of increased traffic. What does “significant” mean to them? 25% 50% 190%

  • Mr. Crusty

    I am glad that organizations like the BHA are out there trying to ensure that the concerns of BH’s residents are represented and that hard tough questions are being asked regarding any change that affects the community. I am just a little turned off by the reflexive hostility by some to those that are looking to invest in the community. There always seems to be the presumption that the investors/developers are liars or that there is some subterfuge afoot to screw the community.

    For instance take this passage from the story, “Kay Desai said more information was needed, and her husband, Rohit Desai, sternly warned Committee members that their failure to demand such information could be in violation of law.”

    Rather adversarial I would say and I’m not quite sure why.

    “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” Too many are looking for absolutely perfect solutions when none may exist. A really forward thinking NYC bicycle share program is opposed because some parking spaces will be sacrificed, or because some don’t like the blue CitiBank colors. The creation of an incredible park that will benefit many for decades is fought because there is some private development involved to help pay the expenses. Heck, even a lone hot dog guy, an omnipresent NY fixture, is subject to rather harsh attack. There are some that oppose change. Period.

    Again I am not being critical of those that take the time and effort to get involved and really explore the proposed changes but lets not get so caught up in the NIMBY mentality that no progress ever gets made. Change is inevitable. Even if nothing is done, unplanned change happens – and that rarely works out very well. For instance if some are successful and those wanting to transform the Bosert into a hotel just walk away and another buyer can’t be found what happens then? Does the Bosert become another St. George Hotel?

    Just venting.

  • travy

    i just can’t see a hotel of this size and type doing everything they say it will. no one will come here to party on the roof, there surely won’t be enough day to day guests to fill this massive space, and a high end restaurant? good luck with that.

    i’d keep your eye on the dorm option because i just don’t see a large scale boutique hotel making it here. this is brooklyn, not times square.

  • A math major

    Mr. Crusty, I agree with everything you say. My concerns, as listed above, are mainly because this owner has two other hotels in Manhattan where he regularly makes headlines for doing whatever he wants regardless of what he’s previously promised the community.

    Why would we assume that he’s changed his ways just because he’s entered the magical shangri-la of Brooklyn Heights?

    P.S. can’t wait for the bike share, think the hotel in the park is a sadly required presence, am working hard to make the Velodtome a true multipurpose facility, and well… Like the idea of a food vendor at the foot of Montague, but understand that some people might not want a hot dog cart under their window — it is a residential block after all.

  • Villager

    The new owner doesn’t give a crap about the community. It’s a business venture, an investment that will probably have great returns while decreasing the value and desirability of neighboring residential properties.
    How can I say the new owner doesn’t care? Who spends $90MM on something and doesn’t even show up personally? Oh, I’m sure he’s very busy and can’t be troubled with such trifles.

  • C.


    Speak for yourself. I’d love to go drink on the roof and stare at manhattan. For that reason alone the hotel would do great.

  • Mr. Crusty

    @math major My comments weren’t directed as a criticism of you. You made all valid responsible points.

    @Villager: First off the owner WAS at the hearing so that argument goes out the window. This is what I mean about knee jerk obstruction about something that you don’t have a clue about. To suggest that the conversion of the Bossert will mean decreased property values is based on what exactly? Right, nothing. And to vilify the new owner makes me wonder why anyone would want to do anything in this community.

    Hey, I’m not naive, business men are in the business of making money. What a revelation. So we DO always have to be vigilant to safeguard the community from unintended consequences of any business venture. But why do we seem to always start from the premise that whatever is being proposed is horrible? I don’t know who you are Villager but I’ll venture to say that you REALLY don’t know whether the conversion will be a net plus or a net negative now do you? Start off with a neutral position and lets see where the facts lead us.

    @C I agree. I think a rooftop bar with the views of Manhattan you would get would be an instant success. Also a high end restaurant in that stunning lobby space ? Why is that so hard to contemplate. Isn’t everyone on here always complaining that BH doesn’t have a truly great high end restaurant.

    The instant knee jerk negativity is both predictable and amusing to watch.

  • yoohoo

    All those opposed to the new owners’ plan to re-convert the Bossert into a hotel with rooftop restaurant/lounge/club can present testimony at the BSA hearing on this application. The public is free to voice its concerns regarding nightly noise from the open roof-top seating and/or standing area. It can demand restrictions on the use of the outdoor space (restaurant table service, number of tables) versus lounge set-up for socializing and drinking. It can demand that the liquor license restrict the hours of operation. The public should be aware that a liquor license applicant specifies the maximum occupancy of the establishment without breaking the figure down between indoor and outdoor space. Thus, in theory, all of X number of individuals permitted to occupy the premises could be on the open deck.

    Of course, preparing and presenting testimony requires more work and takes away from one’s free time than voicing an opinion on this blog.

  • Andrew

    I, for one, look forward to drinking many (likely overpriced) cocktails on the roof of the Bossert. And I do hope that they’re able to bring in a true high-end, world-class restaurant to Brooklyn Heights.

    Traffic could be a concern, but having the Bossert as a working hotel might make it easier to get a yellow cab on Hicks Street rather than having to walk out to Clinton.

  • Villager

    oops, ok, my bad, I misread. I admit it. He was there.
    I’m still skeptical given available information about his other properties. But I am partially reassured based on his presence at the meeting.
    I still hold that the hotel conversion will have a negative impact on the neighboring properties (by that I mean within maybe 100 yards, because, really, who wants to live right next door to a hotel?).

  • BH’er

    @Crusty – well said, I’m looking forward to the change and hope they keep the hotel as polished as the JoHo’s did

    Days start and end with helicopter noise, ferry horns, a/c fans, patio party noise, taxi horns, sirens, kids screaming, ice cream vendor generators and the list goes on… party noise from the hotel wont be any worse than the bass beats coming from BBP and across the water late night

    but, fair to keep a close eye on the developers, voice concerns and hold them to their word – a business wont (and shouldnt) spend money on anything it doesnt have

    lets make sure they have to

    and keep it real…

  • Flashlight Worthy

    Speaking of A/C noise, do you think the developer will replace the window units with a central system? I can’t think of too many $300/night hotels with a window until shoved in the window. On the other hand, installing a central system will require some pretty major (and loud) condensers which could eat up (and disrupt) valuable roof space. Tough call.

  • dog lover

    Wish Mr. Crusty would just shut up. Who is he/she anyway. Always sounding as if his/hers opinion is absolutely the only right, clear thinking, opinion on everything, saying others are mean, with knee-jerking negativity. Where do you live Mr. Crusty? Do you own in Brooklyn Heights? How invested in the neighborhood are you really?

  • dog lover

    To Yoohoo, You wrote, “Of course, preparing and presenting testimony requires more work and takes away from one’s free time than voicing an opinion on this blog.” That’s why we all join and pay dues to the BHA to speak on our behalf.

  • Mr. Crusty

    sorry dog lover I will not just “shut up”. This is a blog for residents to voice their opinion. If you disagree with it you can voice your disagreement, ignore it, or I guess, just shut up.

    Why do people not want to hear all points of view. Strange.

    The reason I post is that the natural tendency is for people to voice their opinion when they object to something and not when they are supportive of the subject at hand so the negativity is over-weighted on blog such as this. I am just trying to even the playing field.

    Yes I do present my arguments forcefully but I don’t think I have ever told anyone to “shut up”. I’ll let others determine which is more rude.

    have a wonderful day dog lover.

  • travy

    C- i’ll gladly down a few on the roof but i don’t think the drinkers of the heights can float a rooftop lounge in a $100 million dollar hotel. my point is that this place will have to stay pretty full to stay in the black and i just don’t see the demand.

    happy to be wrong. it would be fun to have a little life in the hood but like i said, i see a dorm making them more money when it’s all said and done.

  • Mr. Crusty

    I’m sure the new owners, who are in the hotel business after all, have done all the research to ascertain whether they will get a return on their investment. They are not in the “dorm” business, they are in the hotel business.

  • Andrew Porter

    People are naive if they think a hotel in this area will not be full all the time. Easy access to all of NYC via quick and efficient subways within a few minutes walk, a vibrant local restaurant scene, a great neighborhood which is already full of tourists from around the world. I ran into foreign tourists who were in a hotel on Nevins Street. Tell me that given the choice of staying on Nevins, or in BH, they won’t jump for the chance to be in a hotel within a minute of the Promenade.

  • Andrew Porter

    Oh, and Travy, this is *not* Brooklyn—it’s Brooklyn Heights!

  • SPM

    I have to agree with @Andrew Porter. Hotels in Williamsburg – trendy, boutique ones like what is proposed at The Bossert – are filled up. I am sure it may impact the Marriott’s occupancy level (anyone have any idea of that?) but I agree that tourists would definitely jump at the chance to stay in the neighborhood. And I am really looking forward to a cool, rooftop lounge. I’ll bring the photograph of my grandparents and their friends sipping cocktails at the Bossert circa New Year’s Eve 1935!

  • Hicks on Hicks

    According to Crains, there is zero vacancy in NYC below 59th St. 250 days / year. The Bossert will be plenty busy.

    Many comments on the blog today. One point not yet mentioned is the positive benefits of transferring real estate to tax paying entities from the tax sheltered JoHos. I’m sure the traffic will help sustain local businesses.

  • Carol

    Change is afoot. The Witnesses will sell the Bossert and the new use (hotel, student dorm….) will be different than the current one. You may have noticed that the line of potential buyers is quite short considering that this property has been on the market for four (+ -) years.
    I happen to think that a nice hotel is a positive for the neighborhood and Montague Street. Will it bring more traffic? Yes. Will it be intolerable? Probably not.

  • Rick

    A lot of reasons to be hopeful (a new source of city taxes, a convenient place for friends/family of Heights residents to stay, hotel guests spending money in the neighborhood, increased chances for new restaurants as a result of increased customers), and a few causes for concern (possible increased noise and traffic). On balance this hotel looks like it is probably a good thing.

    I do have to wonder if there is enough demand for all of these new hotels in the works. Some here have alluded to the ability of marketing experts to know what will sell, and to them I have 2 words: New Coke.

  • eg

    When I moved here in Jan. 1978, the Bossert was a hotel, later bought by JW. I would like another restaurant, but a roof restaurant has its’ problems of noise.

    When the Casino on Montague have their yearly bash, the loud music until 2 in the morning is truly horrible. Imagine that racket several time a month or season – someone will get out their shotgun.
    (My building backs onto the casino and they didn’t shut their windows.)

    As for the protectiveness and the snobbery of living in the heights, I really have to laugh. Get over it and just enjoy the quiet and beauty of the neighborhood. Unless you’ve bought at the height of market prices and worry about any decline. Someone aaalways has more money and nicer houses.


    I’m puzzled. I’ve been living a block from the Bossert since January 2009. It seems to me the Bossert in fact has been operated as a hotel, and is being operated as a hotel now. Transients are obviously coming in and out all the time. If they don’t have a license to operate as a hotel now, which seems to be implied by the application for a license to operate a hotel on the premises, are they presently doing something illegal? Is that the king of neighbor the neighborhood wants?