The only current fruit of a pandemic-era program designated to create affordable housing is entering the next stage of its development in Queens. 

The 350-room JFK Hilton is well on its way to becoming perhaps the only byproduct of a program intended to convert hotels into permanent residences for low-income and formerly homeless New Yorkers, according to Gothamist

The property — located next to the Belt Parkway, just outside JFK Airport — was one of many to be rendered vacant during COVID-19, and was selected for the first to be repurposed under a 2021 state law called the Housing Our Neighbors with Dignity Act (HONDA). 

The Hilton’s $167 million conversion is chugging along, with interior demolition concluding and its transformation into 318 apartments soon set to begin. But advocates are bemoaning the fact that it has been three years since HONDA’s passage, and the Hilton remains the only short-term lodging being converted as a result. 

“HONDA was started with all the good intentions,” but lacked sufficient funding, Vijay Dandapani, CEO of the Hotel Association of New York City, told Gothamist of the program’s $200 million state budget. “It was not enough to move the needle.”

A rendering of green community space in the completed building. Courtesy New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development
The hotel was acquired by private developer Slate Property Group in collaboration with its nonprofit partner RiseBoro Community Partnership, Gothamist reported. Courtesy New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development
Common spaces aim to to please with chic style. Courtesy New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development
The property was formerly a 350-room hotel. Hilton

As well, many potential hotel candidates lacked sufficiently sized rooms for residential conversion and posed complex zoning regulation issues.

The migrant crisis has also posed a challenge by artificially inflating hotel pricing. 

“There are at this point some 15,000 odd rooms that are being catered to the migrant,” said Dandapani. “It’s obviously temporary. Nobody knows precisely how long it would last, but that has taken this inventory out of the market and resulted in compression, whereby other hotels that are not catering to the migrants can have better occupancies and better rates.”

In the meantime, the Hilton’s metamorphosis into the Baisley Pond Park Residences continues, with a reopening date currently slated for October 2025. 

“The Baisley Pond Park Residences represents what can be achieved when our city and state governments work together with a shared goal of housing New Yorkers,” Speaker of the New York City Council Adrienne Adams said in a statement in December. “While this is the first hotel conversion project facilitated by the Housing Our Neighbors with Dignity Act (HONDA) program, I am hopeful that it will not be the last.”

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