Volume 79, Number 34 | January 27 - February 2, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Mixed Use

By Patrick Hedlund

Nolitan no-go
The city recently determined that an under-construction hotel in Little Italy has violated established height limits in a protected historic district.

The Nolitan, a nine-story-plus boutique hotel at the corner of Kenmare and Elizabeth Sts., sits in the Special Little Italy District, which only allows for buildings up to eight floors, or 85 feet.

The project began courting controversy last summer, when curious neighbors observed the 60-room hotel growing beyond the height of buildings in the district. The developer subsequently added a series of penthouse units above the ninth floor to provide further evidence of its inappropriateness.

Ill effects caused by earlier work at the site, including damage to neighboring buildings, brought about a Department of Buildings stop-work order, followed by an audit of the hotel determining its “mezzanine level” should have been counted toward the building’s total height, or nine stories. The developer appealed the decision, but in a Jan. 19 letter, D.O.B. confirmed that the mezzanine level — another name for the building’s ground floor — did make the building nine stories, “and therefore contrary to [the] Zoning Resolution.”

“What do they expect to do, drag it out of the existing building?” said neighbor Michele Campo of the developer’s attempts to frame the project as only eight stories by not counting the ground floor. “It makes absolutely no sense to me.”

Campo, a member of the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors who didn’t speak for the organization, explained that she has also witnessed unsafe conditions at the site, including after-hours and weekend construction, workers not wearing hard hats and workers not properly affixed to scaffolding.

“It’s beyond pathetic,” she added.

According to D.O.B., the developer has the right to appeal the Jan. 19 decision with the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals.

Forbes on the cheap
New York University purchased the Forbes Building for less than half of what it was commanding three years ago, according to recently released property records detailing the deal.

The school scooped up the eight-story building at 60 Fifth Ave. for $65 million, or nearly 55 percent less than its 2007 price tag of $140 million. Speculation had been that the 122,500-square-foot building was selling for about $55 million, well below its list price from three years ago, when the business magazine had hoped to unload the property for $1,000 per square foot.

Forbes, which has occupied the building since 1962, will remain there for the next five years under a leaseback agreement with N.Y.U.

Condos up, co-ops down
The median price of co-op units Downtown dropped by 13 percent over the past year, while the price of condos grew by 12 percent, according to a year-end residential market report from the Corcoran Group.

Downtown, defined as the residential properties below 34th St., saw the median price of co-ops decrease from $650,000 to $564,000 from the fourth quarter of 2008 to the fourth quarter of 2009. Over that same period, the median price of condos increased by 12 percent — from $1.12 million to $1.25 million.

The median prices of the four unit types covered in the report — studios through three-bedrooms — slipped across the board for co-ops, declining by 11 percent, 13 percent, 1 percent and 33 percent, respectively.

For condos, the price of studios and three-bedrooms fell by 23 percent, one-bedrooms decreased by 18 percent, and two-bedrooms dropped by 13 percent.

Three-bedroom co-ops experienced the greatest change year over year, sliding from $2.25 million at the end of 2008 to $1.51 million currently. Three-bedroom condos saw similar drop-offs, with the median price falling from $3.1 million to $2.4 million in a year’s time.

Not her style
Quite possibly the most famous name in fashion has joined the chorus of voices demanding that a proposed Bleecker St. building be reduced in size to protect the area’s historic character.

Vogue editor and longtime Village resident Anna Wintour penned a letter to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, stating that the intended eight-story project represents “unwelcome intrusion” into the neighborhood, according to the New York Post.

The Department of Buildings recently stated its intentions to revoke permits for the proposed structure at 178 Bleecker St., which would back up to the landmark MacDougal-Sullivan Gardens Historic District, bounded by Bleecker, MacDougal, Sullivan and Houston Sts.

Wintour, reportedly writing on Vogue letterhead, called the project “a totally out-of-scale, inappropriate” development for the block, and she has also reached out to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn to express her displeasure.

The MacDougal-Sullivan Gardens Historic District is surrounded by 22 townhouses, including Wintour’s, that provide exclusive access to the tree-filled backyard retreat.

Preservationists rallied unsuccessfully last year to prevent the demolition of the former building at the site, a five-story row house there since 1861.




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