Volume 78 - Number 37 / February 11 - 17, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
By Patrick Hedlund
The Trump Soho condo hotel was overbuilt by anywhere from 4,000 to 16,000 square feet, according to a neighborhood civic organization looking to bring as many legal challenges against the Spring St. project as possible.
The Soho Alliance, which for years has doggedly fought Donald Trump’s residential hotel — charging Trump and his developer partners manipulated the site’s zoning restrictions — independently enlisted two planning examiners to pore over the project’s blueprints in order to “nitpick it to death,” said Alliance president Sean Sweeney.
“We sent it out to see if there were problems that the bureaucrats at the Department of Buildings may have overlooked,” he said, explaining that two high-profile planners, including one former D.O.B. employee, had been tasked with finding instances of construction beyond the allowable floor area ratio (F.A.R.). “[D.O.B. examiners] don’t go through these things with a fine-toothed comb,” Sweeney noted. He added that construction of areas like the building’s loading dock, for instance, have increased the developers’ built footage by as little as 4,000 square feet and as much as 16,000 over the allowable amount.
The Alliance will lodge the complaint before the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals, despite losing a previous case against the Spring St. building in front of the B.S.A. In addition, an Alliance lawsuit against the project was recently dismissed by State Supreme Court.
The goal is to have the building’s condo-offering plan legally amended to alert prospective buyers of the ongoing litigation, which Sweeney said he expected to continue “for the next two years, minimum.”
“We’re doing it to preserve the integrity of the zoning and let the public know that there are lawsuits [pending],” he added.
The Alliance ultimately wants the developers to convert certain portions of the building so that they won’t be calculated as part of the floor area ratio — a tweaking Sweeney hopes will affect sales.
“Let’s say you bought on the 45th floor, and that’s before they decided to make a mezzanine out of your room,” laughed the recently crowned “NIMBY of the Year.”
The organization also plans to appeal its State Supreme Court defeat with the Appellate Division so as to drag the litigation out as long as possible.
“I wonder in today’s market how many people will buy an overpriced apartment ($3,000 per square foot) at the mouth of the Holland Tunnel (which has the worst diesel particulate matter count in the city, according to the D.E.P.), when there is expected to be years of litigation on whether they can ever live there or not,” Sweeney added in an e-mail. “Also, I have heard from real estate sources down here that Trump has not sold a single unit in over a year! The building is only functioning with a skeleton crew, the gates are locked most of the time, and no visible progress on the facade or curtain wall has progressed in months. Score one for the NIMBY’s!”
Bowery turning ‘Green’
Manhattan’s first outpost of the environmentally friendly building supplies store Green Depot opens Downtown this week, bringing the company’s flagship consumer retail location to the Bowery. The store — which focuses exclusively on “green” building materials, products, services and solutions — will operate out of 3,500 square feet between Prince and Spring Sts., and marks the Brooklyn-based company’s sixth site since debuting in 2005.
The store opens on an up-and-coming stretch of the formerly rundown row, just across the street from the New Museum.
The company’s “first targeted consumer retail store” came about after the original Brooklyn location — intended to service contractors and design professionals — instead saw “pregnant ladies schlepping out to East Williamsburg” to get their hands on green products, said marketing director Honey Berk.
“The space just seemed perfect for what we wanted to do,” she added, citing the LEED-certified Bowery store’s proximity to retail and art institutions.
Patrons will find everything from green kitchen appliances and countertops to cabinets and flooring, with all products identified by the company’s “icon system” of rating the materials. Cleaning supplies with be offered on tap so customers can refill old bottles, and the store will feature a children’s department and space for related workshops and seminars, Berk said.
“Here are things you can do to make your space more livable, to make your space more affordable,” she added. “We just think that people want to come, especially now, because people are spending a lot more time at home.”
Goings and goings
The decade-old East Village bar Tribe joined the slew of neighborhood businesses closing up shop amid the economic tumult, which has struck the area more acutely than other parts of Downtown.
According to The Real Deal, the First Ave. at St. Marks Pl. location was forced to shutter at the end of January after the building’s landlord doubled the rent, acknowledging to the real-estate magazine that the popular dance spot was “an eyesore.”
“I want a classier place,” landlord Tara Allmen, who inherited the building and a handful of other nearby properties, told the mag, adding that Tribe “was not going to enhance the aesthetic of the building,” which was recently renovated.
The closure marks one of many in the East Village recently, including everything from pizza joints to clothing and shoe-repair shops.
The sign in the window tells it all at the former Vesuvio Bakery on Prince St., formerly run by Tony Dapolito, the “Mayor of Greenwich Village” and longtime Community Board 2 chairperson.
New signage at Vesuvio Bakery in Soho appears to mark the official death knell for the historic Prince St. shop. Despite assurances from ownership about the bakery’s return — it has remained closed for nearly eight months — a large “Store For Rent” sign from a real estate company recently went up in the window.
The bakery’s owner, Andrew Veniopoulos, said that after he finally located a tenant to revive Vesuvio late last year, the building’s landlord asked him to surrender his current lease in order to a sign a new, 10-year lease. Veniopoulos agreed, but the landlord subsequently refused to accept the new tenant and placed the “For Rent” sign in the window.
“Apparently, they bamboozled me,” Veniopoulos claimed. “They don’t want a bakery there anymore. They want to do retail.”
Veniopoulos added that the new baker had been willing to pay more than the current $5,500 a month rent, but that the landlord, Lawrence Properties, required $10,000 a month and an entirely new lease.
Now, Veniopolous is taking the building owner court to have his lease returned so he can reopen the space as Vesuvio.
“They’ve been lying to me for about a year now,” Veniopoulos said of his attempts to bring a new tenant into the space while simultaneously working to fix up the store’s ailing plumbing system. “I’ve tried to be kind. This is an outright lie.”
The bakery was owned by the “Mayor of Greenwich Village” Tony Dapolito before his death in 2003, and has been operated since by Venipoulos, who also works for the real-estate brokerage Bapple located across the street.
“After 89 years it’s come to this,” Veniopoulos said. “I just don’t understand it.”