Volume 76, Number 26 | November 15 - 21, 2006


Pols are right to check out Trump hotel

Our local elected officials are working with the Department of Buildings and community and preservation groups to negotiate a restrictive declaration for the contested 42-story condo-hotel planned by Bayrock/Sapir and Donald Trump on Spring St. Clearly, the developers must negotiate, because right now all they have is a permit to dig a hole: D.O.B. has so far withheld issuing a building permit for the actual building.

The elected officials and Buildings are proposing that tenants or owners of the condo-hotel’s units only be allowed to stay for up to 30 days, after which they would have to leave for at least five days before being able to return.

The maximum number of days any owner or sublessor would be allowed to stay in one of the condo-hotel units would be 90 to 150 days in any one year. All of these specifics are still being negotiated.

It’s said construction of this condo-hotel allegedly may have some supervision by a winner of Trump’s reality show, “The Apprentice.” But the actual reality is that allowing what is essentially a stealth residential project to be built will undermine the fabric of manufacturing-zoned neighborhoods and impact residents in neighboring areas, in this case, Hudson Square and Soho.

This would be the highest building between Midtown and the Financial District. Its sheer height is simply inappropriate for this area. The only reason the developers are undertaking such a mammoth project, it seems, is because they hope they will be able to operate it as a de facto residential building — the highest-end use in this part of Manhattan, and the only type of use likely to attract financing for 40-plus stories in this neighborhood.

The developers have said they plan to operate the condo-hotel in such a way that an owner could rent out a unit to others or live there him- or herself. There would be no oversight of whether the owners or the sublessors would be in residence for extended periods, if not year-round.

While condo-hotels do exist in the city in commercial districts, this would be a first, since it’s in a manufacturing district. In effect, to set a precedent by approving this convoluted project would mean allowing luxury housing to spread into areas of the city for which it simply is not zoned, essentially a form of spot zoning, yet without the necessary public and municipal reviews.

Because of all of these concerns, we’re encouraged to see our elected officials leading the effort to negotiate a restrictive declaration for this slippery project. However, who will be insuring that the owners/sublessors vacate at the appropriate dates or don’t surpass their yearly allotment of days at the condo-hotel? One can imagine a lot of name-shuffling to avoid the appearance of stays longer than 30 days. The officials say they’re working on provisions for inspections and enforcement. But we need more details before we’re convinced this solution will really work.

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