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

Trump’s ‘Trojan horse hotel’ doesn’t get out of gate at C.B. 2

By Gerard Flynn

Community activists got a step closer to toppling Donald Trump’s plans for a 45-story hotel in Hudson Square following a decision Thursday by Community Board 2’s Zoning Committee to reject the project on legal grounds.

Following brief deliberations, the Zoning Committee sided with community activists who argued that the Trump Soho Hotel Condominiums New York, planned for 246 Spring St., between Varick St. and Sixth Ave., would be a “Trojan horse hotel.”

Activists, led by Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, said that while the project is being touted by Trump as a “transients” hotel, for accommodating short stays only, in reality he appears to have plans for a residential condo-hotel.

The committee recommended sending a letter to the Board of Standards and Appeals questioning the legality of raising a 400-unit residential hotel in a manufacturing-zoned district. The site, on the western edge of Soho, is not zoned to allow residential use.

During the standing-room-only hearing at Housing Works on W. 13th St., Philip Mouquinho of C.B. 2 summed up the general mood of the board and the local community when he told Paul Selver, an attorney representing an absent Trump, that the proposal for a high-rise hotel in a low-rise historic neighborhood was an “insane idea.”

“Mr. Trump, stay out of our neighborhood,” Mouquinho shouted at Selver, to deafening screams and applause from the audience.


A rendering of the Trump Soho Hotel Condominiums New York, planned for 246 Spring St., between Varick St. and Sixth Ave.

Sporting a blue pinstripe suit, Selver, a land-use lawyer with Kramer, Levin, Naftalis & Frankel LLP, found himself embattled barely after he began speaking, and his assurances that the hotel would solely be for short stopovers were met with loud heckles from the audience.

“Look at that snide smirk on his face,” one activist shouted back in disbelief.

Addressing the board, Berman argued that if Trump’s plans are approved by the city the new development will have a devastating impact upon Downtown.

“It’s a developer’s dream come true, but a nightmare for the rest of us,” Berman said. “The structure of a condo-hotel lends itself to residential uses. The burden is on them to prove that it’s going to be a transients’ hotel. I don’t think that they can do that.”

He added that approval for the project would also lead the entire city down a slippery slope, giving developers for the first time ever a way to skirt the law and build residential high-rises without any public approval in manufacturing zones.

Berman charged that the project sounds suspiciously like a prior scheme for a 450-foot-tall hotel/residence in the Meatpacking District, which a coalition of groups including G.V.S.H.P. defeated in 2004 because it allowed residential development in a district where the zoning prohibited it.

Berman’s concerns about the development were underscored by Richard Blodgett of the Charlton St. Block Association, who also spoke passionately against the development.

Blodgett said the block association had rejected the proposal, citing concerns about additional traffic congestion — the hotel would be close to the Holland Tunnel — and additional strains on existing infrastructure.

Written statements condemning the proposal were also read aloud by representatives of State Senator Tom Duane and Assemblymember Deborah Glick, who chided the development as being “out of character” and “out of scale” for the neighborhood. A representative of Council Speaker Christine Quinn also attended, but --- in her usual approach -- Quinn is not officially weighing in on the issue yet,, waiting to see what position the community board takes.

The proposed hotel is a venture of Bayrock/Sapir LLC, a partnership of the Bayrock Group, Tamir Sapir and Donald Trump, and would be 454 feet high.

Purchasers of the units can decide how long they wish to use them and whether they want the hotel’s management to rent them out, Julius R. Schwarz, executive vice president of the Bayrock Group, has previously said, which, Berman notes, hints at ulterior motives by The Donald.

Berman has said that the project is “as of right,” meaning it can be built within existing building and zoning regulations. Trump does not have to seek a variance or rezoning, which would probably doom the proposed glass building due to the considerable hostility it has generated from the local community and politicians alike.

Trump reportedly hopes to begin construction by the end of the year and to open the tower by 2009. His children, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka, will oversee the project while “Apprentice” season No. 5 winner, Sean Yazbeck, is slated to handle construction on the project.

Berman said, at the moment, the city is holding on issuing building permits for the development and that the standoff between G.V.S.H.P. and Trump will continue.

In light of G.V.S.H.P.’s success three years ago against the development in the Meatpacking District, he said, “I am hopeful that the city will do the right thing. We will keep pushing and they will keep pushing and we will keep their line back as far as we can.”

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