Volume 76, Number 9 | July 19 - 25, 2006

Editorial

Trump deals a crooked hand on condo-hotel

Donald Trump and Downtown. The words just don’t seem to go together. But now The Donald is hoping to build his newest addition to the Manhattan skyline, a 45-story, so-called condo-hotel on Soho’s western border in Hudson Square.

Whether a monumental building of this size belongs in this area of Downtown is one thing. Most local residents would stridently say it doesn’t and that a structure of that size — not to mention the glitzy denizens it would cater to — is antithetical to this area’s very character.

On the other hand, property owners and business owners, we’re sure, would support such a project, with its 400 rooms brimming with high-end shoppers.

Regardless of one’s position on the proposed building’s height — achieved through taking advantage of some liberal height restrictions on the avenue and purchasing neighboring air rights — there’s a fundamental problem with the developer/reality show host’s application. Namely, a fully condo-hotel project — the first of its kind in the city — as far as we can tell, is not legal at the site, on Varick between Spring and Dominick Sts. The property’s manufacturing zoning allows a hotel. But residential use — and that includes condo-hotels, in our understanding — would not be allowed without either a variance first from the Board of Standards and Appeals or a zoning change by the Department of City Planning.

Trump is saying he’ll sell the units to buyers, who will own them as condos and can either live in them or rent them out to others as hotel rooms. But this all seems like residential use, simply in different guises.

Already Trump has tipped his hand as to the units’ real nature, in that the original plans he submitted to the Department of Buildings included kitchenettes in all the suites. D.O.B. told Trump this wasn’t kosher and he took the kitchenettes out. Yet, this doesn’t mean the use of the rooms will fundamentally change. The type of buyers and subleasers such a setup would attract would be well funded, and the condo-hotel is being marketed as a full-service building. It’s no stretch to imagine these individuals ordering room service or ordering out for meals or going out for meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner, seven days a week or for however long their stay at the “hotel” would last.

At the Meat Market’s north end and on 15th St. in Chelsea, some property owners are also exploring developing or adding residential units in a manufacturing zone. Yet, they’re either going for variances or zoning changes through the public review process.

By contrast, what Trump is trying to do in Hudson Square is a backdoor attempt to get residential use on the edge of trendy Soho. To allow this would merely encourage others to use the same sleight of hand. Trump, who owns casinos, should put his cards on the table. Let’s call a spade a spade: This is mainly a residential project, not a hotel.

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