For Immediate Release November 7, 2005
Contact: Andrew Berman 917-533-1767
Eyewitnesses Attest to Illegal Work Used by Schnabel to Beat Deadline and Claim ‘Grandfathered’ Status
Manhattan -- The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) was joined yesterday by dozens of neighbors of Julian Schnabel for a demonstration outside the artist/filmmaker's home and office at 360 West 11th Street. Neighbors protested Schnabel's plans to erect a 110-ft. tall tower on top of his turn-of-the-century building, which would violate the recently enacted downzoning of the Far West Village which bans such high-rises. Schnabel has asked the City to 'grandfather' the project and allow him to complete it, based upon the substantial completion of his foundations at the time of the rezoning. But several neighbors at the demonstration/press conference testified that they witnessed illegal after-hours work regularly performed at Schnabel’s worksite for weeks preceding the passage of the new rezoning, as part of Schnabel’s attempt to rush to finish his foundations in time. Sworn affidavits to this effect were also provided.
Those gathered urged the City not to reward Schnabel's illegal activity and to revoke his permits immediately and require he abide by the new zoning for the area. The City is currently weighing both the community's request for revocation and Schnabel's request to be allowed to complete his project.
“The City must not reward lawbreakers like Julian Schnabel, who flagrantly flout the law with the belief that they will not get caught and can get away with whatever they plan to do,” stated Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation Executive Director Andrew Berman. “This neighborhood fought long and hard for a rezoning to prevent exactly the kind of development Mr. Schnabel is trying to sneak in here. We did everything by the book – we lobbied our government to make these changes, public hearings were held, multiple votes were taken, and the new zoning rules were enacted. Mr. Schnabel knew exactly what was going on, but instead of playing by the rules, according to neighbors he chose to violate the law, performing illegal after-hours and early morning work for weeks to try to beat the deadline for the new rezoning. Neighbor called the police and 311 and filed complaints. Now it is the City’s job to ensure that Schnabel’s law-breaking is not rewarded and the character of this neighborhood is protected – we demand that Schnabel’s permits for his high-rise be revoked immediately, and that he be required to abide by the same new zoning for the area as everyone else,” added Berman.
After a year and a half campaign led by GVSHP, on October 11th the Far West Village was downzoned, prohibiting high-rises on sites like 360 West 11th Street where Mr. Schnabel plans to build his tower (CLICK HERE for more information). Once this new zoning was enacted, under City law all new development in the area has to abide by the new zoning’s restrictions UNLESS the foundation footings for the new development are found to have been completed when the rezoning is enacted. In the three weeks preceding the October 11th adoption of the rezoning, scores of neighbors reported that on a regular basis work was illegally done on Schnabels’ foundations before and after the allowable hours of 7 am to 6 pm. Neighbors called the police and 311 on multiple occasions to report the illegal work, and GVSHP asked the City to inspect the site the moment the rezoning passed to revoke the permits if the foundation footings were not complete (CLICK HERE for letter).
The City inspected the site three days after the new zoning was enacted; during this time neighbors reported work on the foundation continued. The City initially found that the foundation footings were complete and therefore Schnabel would be allowed to complete the high-rise. However, after GVSHP, City Councilmember Christine Quinn, State Senator Tom Duane, and Assemblymember Deborah Glick brought the illegal work to the City’s attention and demanded a reconsideration, the Department of Buildings agreed to reconsider (CLICK HERE for letter). During that time, GVSHP, the elected officials, and neighbors of Mr. Schnabel’s met with the Department of Buildings and presented more than a dozen signed affidavits attesting to the illegal after-hours and early morning work Schnabel regularly performed to expedite completion of his foundations in his attempt to beat the rezoning. Neighbors also presented the Department of Buildings with a videotape showing ongoing work on the site after the legally allowable hours.
Though dozens of calls were made to 311 about the illegal work, inspections by the City were generally performed anywhere from several hours to two weeks later, as after-hours work complaints are given low-priority by the City and are not responded to quickly. As a result, City inspectors did not catch Schnabel’s illegal work. However, GVSHP pointed out that neighbors and the community should not be penalized for the City’s lack of timely response, and insisted that the eyewitness accounts of dozens of neighbors, including those who spoke at today’s press conference, should be sufficient (CLICK HERE for letter).
“I sincerely hope that the Greenwich Village community is not penalized for the lack of timely response to neighbors’ numerous complaints about illegal work by Mr. Schnabel, and Mr. Schnabel is not rewarded by being allowed to build a high-rise that violates the zoning for this area. Mr. Schnabel did not play by the rules, but his neighbors and this community did. I hope the City does the right thing and ensures that it is Mr. Schnabel who pays the price, and not us,” stated Berman.
At GVSHP’s urging, the City has already revoked the permits for two other nearby developments within the rezoned area of the West Village which do not conform to the new rezoning – 163 Charles Street and 166 Perry Street. GVSHP protested Schnabel's plans for the 110-ft tall addition to his building when they were first uncovered in January, 2005 (CLICK HERE for more information).
- end -