PRESS RELEASE: Hundreds Rally to Call Upon City to Block Construction of Trump SoHo 'Condo-Hotel.'
GVSHP Executive Director Andrew Berman leading Sunday's protest.
Manhattan – Hundreds of residents, Assemblymember Deborah Glick, and City Council Zoning Subcommittee Chair Tony Avella joined the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, the SoHo Alliance, and more than a dozen community groups (complete list below) for a press conference and demonstration at the site of the planned SoHo Condo-Hotel at Spring and Varick Streets. Those gathered called upon the City to refuse construction permits for the planned development based upon zoning violations and inclusion of illegal residential uses. Demonstration organizer Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation showed the long history and recent examples of Trump and his development partners advertising the project as a “residence,” even though the zoning clearly prohibits residential use and the City has claimed that the project would not be residential (CLICK HERE for images.)
If approved, the Trump SoHo Condo Hotel would be the city’s very first condo-hotel in a manufacturing zone, where residential development is prohibited, and opponents claim it will result in all manufacturing zones citywide being opened to residential development for the first time ever (see attached map of affected areas). It would also be the tallest building between Midtown and the Financial District and directly adjacent to the Holland Tunnel entrance, a concern which several speakers also addressed.
The City has refused to rule that a condo-hotel would violate the manufacturing zone’s prohibitions on residential and residential hotel development. Instead, they have been negotiating the terms of a voluntary “restrictive declaration” with Trump and partners Bayrock/Saypir, which would allow owners of the units in the development to live in them 3-5 months per year. However, demonstration organizers claim that is still a clear violation of the manufacturing zoning regulations, which only allow “transient hotels,’ defined as having rooms that are “rented on a daily basis” and are used “primarily for transient occupancy.” In a 2004 case against another condo-hotel in a manufacturing district which GVSHP fought against, the City ruled that in transient hotels in manufacturing zones “units must not be subject to sale, lease, or other arrangements under which they would not be available for transient occupancy. This interpretation is final.” Furthermore, in light of the difficulty in enforcing such a ‘voluntary’ agreement, and the developers’ consistent advertisement of the condo-hotel as a place of permanent “residence,”demonstrators say that owners will end up living there for well over the permitted 3-5 months per year, and possibly year-round.
“The City has got to come to grips with reality – Trump’s condo-hotel will have illegal residential uses, and it will violate the zoning,” said GVSHP Executive Director Andrew Berman. “If it walks like a duck and it talks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. Thousands of people across the country live in condo-hotels part-time or full-time. Trump and partners from the beginning have said this is a place where people will leave part of the year or year round. And every time you turn around, their ads or their websites are touting this as a ‘residence.’ How much more evidence does the City need?” added Berman.
Berman and others also questioned why the City seemed intent on finding a way to make this enormous development legal when it is so clearly wrong for this location. “A 45-story condo-hotel is the last thing Spring and Varick Streets need. This is a mostly low-rise, largely historic neighborhood; we don’t need 45 stories of Trump pseudo-glitz,” said Berman. “As it is, traffic is regularly snarled to a standstill at the Holland Tunnel entrance next to this site. Imagine what will happen when the Trump Condo-Hotel opens – traffic will come to a permanent halt,” he added.
Instead of trying to disguise the Trump Condo-Hotel as a legal transient hotel, demonstrators said the City is required by law not to issue the building permits necessary for construction. If the developers wanted to build the project they would then have to apply for a zoning change, a public approval process which requires an environmental review and allows the public a say in whether the approvals are granted or modified, which could address community concerns about size or height, for instance. By contrast, if the City were to rule the project in compliance with the zoning, as they have indicated they would, the City would entirely eliminate the public review process for this or any other condo-hotel in a manufacturing zone, in effect allowing as-of-right high-rise luxury residential development for the first time ever in manufacturing zones – a prospect developers have long salivated over and community groups have long fought against.
“I hope the Bloomberg Administration will see what is so obvious to everyone else in this case – this is a residence which would violate the zoning, and therefore should not be allowed. The City must not eliminate the public’s right to have a say in major land use decisions by greenlighting this project with a closed-door decision,” stated Berman.
Several dozen elected officials, community and business groups from across the city have urged the Mayor not to issue permits for the Trump project because it would violate zoning rules (see below for complete list).
Today’s demonstration was sponsored by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, SoHo Alliance, Friends of Hudson Square, Tribeca Community Association, Housing Conservation Coordinators, Pratt Center for Community Development, Brooklyn Economic Development Corporation, the Sullivan Thompson Coalition, the Charlton Street Block Association, the VanDam Street Block Association, the Carmine Street Block Association, and the South Village Landmarking Alliance.
Elected Officials, Community Groups, Business Groups, Planning Organizations, and Community Boards Which Oppose the City Issuing Permits for the Trump Project
(list in formation, as of March 4, 2007)
State Senator Martin Connor
State Senator Tom Duane
State Senator Liz Kruger
State Senator Velmanette Montgomery
City Council Zoning Subcommittee Chair Tony Avella
City Councilmember Gale Brewer
City Councilmember Miguel Martinez
Assemblymember Deborah Glick
Assemblymember Richard Gottfried
Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnel
Municipal Art Society
Pratt Center for Community Development
Zoning for Jobs Coalition
New York Industrial Retention Network
Pratt Center for Community Development
Garment Industry Development Corporation
Housing Conservation Coordinators
Brooklyn Economic Development Corporation
Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation
Harlem Community Development Corporation
Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Association
Community Board #1, Brooklyn (Williamsburg/Greenpoint)
Community Board 1, Manhattan (Tribeca, Seaport, Financial District)
Community Board 2, Manhattan (Greenwich Village, SoHo, Little Italy, NoHo)
Community Board 4, Manhattan (Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen)
Community Board 5, Manhattan (Midtown, Garment Center, Flatiron)
SoHo Arts Council
Friends of Hudson Square
Tribeca Community Association
Williamsburg-Greenpoint Waterfront Alliance
Charlton Street Block Association
Greenwich Village Block Associations
VanDam Street Block Association
Carmine Street Block Association