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

Villager photo by Jefferson Siegel

Nearly 100 people gathered outside the Hotel Gansevoort last Wednesday night, blowing whistles, banging on drums and chanting, “Take Them Down!” Among them was Florent Morellet, who, with other local restaurateurs, is refusing to take reservations from the hotel. Also present, State Senator Tom Duane explained he came “to show the hotel that after all the work we did to landmark this neighborhood and make it a place people would want to come, for them to put up signs that ruin the whole ambience is horrible.” During the one-hour protest, guests arrived for a party for Nylon magazine and singer Christina Aguilera.

Hotel Gansevoort billboard angle is off, city says

By Lincoln Anderson

The Department of Buildings last week weighed in, partially, on the ongoing debate over the towering new billboard by the Hotel Gansevoort, ruling that the billboard’s angle to a neighboring residential district must be modified slightly.

Andrew Berman, director of the Greenwich Village Society of Historic Preservation — which has led the fight against the jumbo billboard structure, which sports two separate signs on a single supporting pole — hailed the decision as a victory.

As a result of D.O.B.’s decision, the hotel “could either dismantle the signs or move the signs and keep them there,” Berman said. If the hotel chooses to keep the signs, “They would have to turn the signs 5 degrees, so they face the [hotel’s] windows more,” he added. D.O.B. says the disputed amount of degrees is actually 4.

G.V.S.H.P. has raised objections to the signs in terms of their orientation to three neighboring zoning districts. However, D.O.B. has yet to rule on the signs’ relation to the other two zoning districts, one of which is residential, the other commercial.

Late last Friday afternoon, Kate Lindquist, a D.O.B. spokesperson, issued the following statement: “The sign applications for the Hotel Gansevoort site are still under review. Mr. Berman has brought up some additional points that we may consider. However, there is clearly one zoning issue to be resolved: It’s a matter of 4 degrees. The signs are supposed to be at a 90-degree angle away from the neighboring zoning district yet they are only 86 degrees. The applicant is working to bring the sign into compliance.”

At about the same time D.O.B. e-mailed the statement to The Villager, however, a spokesperson for Michael Achenbaum, the Hotel Gansevoort’s owner, e-mailed the following statement:

“The hotel has not received any notice of a violation from D.O.B. The address mentioned in Mr. Berman’s letter — 352 W. 13th St. — is not the address of the Hotel Gansevoort and not the address filed on the application for the billboards (both 18 Ninth Ave.). Until we receive this notification, this is all the information we have available at this time.”

However, in a Feb. 7 letter from Edward J. Fortier, director of D.O.B.’s Padlock/Sign Enforcement Units, to Berman, Fortier refers to the signs as being at 352 W. 13th St. The D.O.B. Web site, in fact, lists several addresses for the property, corresponding to the various former smaller lots comprising the site.

D.O.B.’s Web site also notes about 20 complaints about the sign since this January, including on March 17: “Caller states at location there is a huge sign. Caller feels sign represents a danger due to the fact that it collects snow and ice at location.”

Berman said if the billboard is found to be illegally orientated in relation to the other two zoning districts, its signs would have to be turned even more toward the hotel — basically rendering them invisible to passerbys and motorists on the street. He said he’s confident they have a good case.

“Either he can just take it down,” Berman said of Achenbaum and the billboard structure, “or he can continue this protracted war with us.”

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