Volume 19 • Issue 11 | July 28- - August 3, 2006


Trump deals a crooked hand on hotel-condo

Donald Trump’s “Apprentice” may be great entertainment but it can be hell on Downtown. Last year, The Donald hinted the day before the season finale that the winner of the reality show could get a chance to lead his foolhardy effort to rebuild the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center site. We’re not sure if Trump changed his mind because he realized it wouldn’t look good to use the nation’s greatest tragedy as a ratings booster, but we’re glad he jettisoned the plan. This year Trump is letting his winner help him get a 45-story, so-called hotel-condo on Soho’s western border in Hudson Square.

It’s a little scary that with the liberal zoning height restrictions on the avenue, combined with the air rights he has bought, Trump could build a 45-story hotel for the site on Varick between Spring and Dominick Sts. Varick is overwhelmed with Holland Tunnel traffic and this building is grossly outsized for the neighborhood. There does not appear to be a market for such an oversized hotel, so Trump has decided to simply call it a hotel, even though it sure looks to be a residential condo.

Trump is saying he’ll sell the 400 units to buyers, who will own them and can either live in them or rent them out to others as hotel rooms. The tenants could all decide to sew sweaters one night, but that won’t make the building a sewing factory. If it quacks like a residential condo, and sells like a residential condo, it’s a residential condo.

Already Trump has tipped his hand as to the units’ real nature, in that the original plans he submitted to the Department of Buildings included kitchenettes in all the units. D.O.B. told Trump this wasn’t kosher and he took the kitchenettes out, yet it’s not clear what would prevent these luxury condo buyers, er hotel guests, from building kitchens on their own. The early indications are that city officials are looking at the plan with a healthy amount of skepticism and we hope that doesn’t soften.

At the Meat Market’s north end and on 15th St. in Chelsea, some property owners are also exploring developing or adding residential units in a manufacturing zone. Yet, they’re either going for variances or zoning changes, through the public review process.

The Donald’s site and the nearby blocks may indeed need a rezoning. Most of the rest of Hudson Square was rezoned recently to allow residential uses. Residents have been quietly moving into the neighborhood into supposed commercial units for years and new zoning to allow for mixed uses may very well make sense to reflect the reality of what is happening Downtown. Similar zoning changes worked well in Tribeca over a decade ago and allowed the neighborhood to grow.

What Trump is trying to do in Hudson Square is a backdoor attempt to get an oversized residential building on the edge of trendy Soho. To allow this would merely encourage others to use the same sleight of hand. If Trump wants residential use on the site, fine, but he should either try to change the zoning or apply for a variance to build a reasonably-sized building.


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