Volume 76, Number 44 | March 28 - April 3, 2007


Hotel billboard is a huge offense

We were walking down Hudson St. by the Hotel Gansevoort the other day, when a woman who had passed us turned and yelled back at some men fixing air-conditioning equipment on one of the hotel’s lower roofs: “Boo! Idiots!”

Those are pretty much our sentiments regarding the colossal eight-story billboard at Hudson and Gansevoort Sts. — at which the woman was obviously directing her jeers.

The 13-story hotel, which opened in 2004, immediately got off on the wrong foot. For starters, its height is out of scale for the low-rise Meat Market. And its design — silvery metallic, as if out of a science-fiction movie — is awful. And let’s not forget the lava lamp-like exterior lights, which morph from turquoise to pink, yellow and lime green. In short, this hotel belongs in Las Vegas or maybe Miami, not on the edge of the landmarked Meat Market or Greenwich Village Historic District.

Next came the noise from the hotel’s rooftop bar. The hotel moved to mitigate that problem, enclosing the area around the bar in Plexiglas.

Indeed, it seemed the hotel was trying to work with the community. Of course, the hotel’s business was booming, attracting a glitzy, high-end clientele, who, in turn, enjoyed all the Meat Market’s new nightlife. Neighboring businesses weren’t complaining, either: This U.F.O.-like newcomer was transporting customers to their places. “Beam them in, Scottie!”

Yet, the billboard — a single monolithic black pole, supporting two humungous advertising sign panels — changed all that. Now, even neighboring businesses are saying “Enough!” Owners of 10 leading Meat Market restaurants — including the likes of Keith McNally and Florent Morellet — are refusing to accept reservations from the hotel. These restaurateurs are taking a principled stand, saying that quality of life outweighs the bottom line.

Last week, the Department of Buildings ruled the billboard’s angle is acute — less than 90 degrees — in relation to the residential district across Hudson St., and thus illegal. Obviously, this rule is intended to protect residents from visual pollution from enormous, obnoxious ads. D.O.B. says the hotel is now angling the signs to come into compliance.

However, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and others are now calling on hotel owner Michael Achenbaum just to dismantle this unfortunate monstrosity once and for all.

G.V.S.H.P. has filed more complaints about the billboard’s orientation in relation to two other districts, which could lead to the billboard being folded in even further toward the hotel, giving its guests an excellent view of the obnoxiously large ads.

This new billboard and the hotel’s stubborn refusal to heed the community’s protests against it, has ruined any good feelings that had built up. Only by removing this gigantic, ugly erector set will the hotel be able to restore itself to the community’s good graces.

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