Is it a fresh start or a repeat of the past?
The Phoenix Hotel has risen from the ashes of the shuttered Sunny 39 Hotel — which police closed as a front for prostitution last year — and now neighbors, who are already critical of the number of hotels opening in the area, say they are nervous that the new inn will follow in its predecessor’s footsteps.
“Of all the things that could have replaced this, why a hotel?” said Marcela Mitaynes, who lives up the block from the 39th Street hotel. “Aside from concerns about prostitution, people are just at their wits end about the over-saturation of hotels in the area. It’s just been difficult to have all this in a residential area. There are all these people coming and going.”
The four-story, 44-room hotel on 39th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues remained vacant for nearly a year after police arrested and charged the owners and manger with permitting prostitution and falsifying business records late last year. The property is owned by Kings King Realty LLC, which leased the building to Sunny 39 and is now leasing the space to Phoenix.
The new operators, who opened the inn in September, have no affiliation with Sunny 39, and owners called the hotel “phoenix” to signal a new start — not a continuation of the same, according to a worker there.
“People have come and told us about the prostitution and their worries, and we let them know that we have nothing to do with the old hotel,” said Tan Feng, the assistant manger of the hotel. “The manager picked ‘phoenix,’ because it means rebirth and to be reborn with a better life. We’re a new hotel, so its like a rebirth. We’re renovating the rooms and working to make the hotel nicer so that people can come and enjoy the area.”
Community Board 7 district manager Jeremy Laufer is keeping an eye on the spot — as is the 72nd Precinct, he said.
But those who advocated for the city to turn the building into a school are less than thrilled with the hotel’s opening.
“I’m completely disappointed that this happened when we were very clear about what the former managers were doing and that this was allowed to move forward,” said Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D–Sunset Park) who wrote Mayor DeBlasio about the hotel. “I hope what took place doesn’t get repeated. Our community deserves better.”
Ortiz assembled a community task force after the last hotel was shuttered. The 10 or so vigilant Sunset Parkers — mostly retired law enforcement — comprising the task force keep tabs on hotels, tallying how often certain guests visit and what time the inns get the most foot traffic, Ortiz said. The assemblyman’s office passes noteworthy information to the police and relevant city agencies at least once a week, the lawmaker said.
The task force is a comfort to those who live in the area, one neighbor said.
“That place was no good for the community before, and I’m not convinced this new hotel will be any better, but it’s nice to know people are watching this place,” said Romeo Dela Fuente, who lives across the street from the hotel. “We’ll see what happens I guess.”