Volume 21, Number 16 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | Aug. 29 - Sept. 4, 2008

Hotel keeps ’em guessing as business it’s messing

By Albert Amateau

The project at 180 Orchard St. that began more than three years ago looks like a derelict construction site whose future is a mystery. But one thing is certain to some:

“It killed the business on this block,” said Enrico Cicalese, who works at Rosario Pizza across the street from the site, which stretches from Orchard to Ludlow Sts. in the middle of the block between E. Houston and Stanton Sts.

The latest word on the street — that the developer, Morris Platt, has sold the site to a “big Chicago developer” — has not been reflected in the records at the city Department of Finance. The department’s latest entry for change of ownership was in 1998, when the property went from Moe Arbisser and ZVI Merchandising Corp. to 180 Orchard St. Associates. Platt did not return calls.

The reinforced concrete frame of the building was three stories high on May 29 of this year when the Department of Buildings issued a stop-work order on the proposed 26-story, mixed-use hotel and residential building.

“A department review raised objections to the plan,” said Carly Sullivan, a Buildings Department spokesperson, who did not give any reasons for the department’s objections. The air rights for a 26-story building could be one reason for the objections, according to Susan Stetzer, Community Board 3 district manager.

The stop-work was temporarily lifted on June 25 for safety reasons to remove the wooden forms from the third-floor concrete, the department spokesperson said.

The work prompted rumors and online reports that the developer was dismantling what he had built. The rumors, however, have proved so far to be wishful thinking on the part of neighbors, who have had their fill of “construction hell” on Orchard and Ludlow Sts. between Houston and Stanton Sts.

The 180 Orchard St. project is just across from the east side of the recently completed 18-story Thompson LES hotel, at 190 Allen St., piling construction woe upon construction woe on Orchard St.

To make matters worse, in the eyes of neighbors, the building at 163 Orchard St., a block away between Stanton and Rivington Sts., has been demolished and a 10-story hotel is to be built on the site, according to Department of Buildings records.

“I understand that people are very frustrated and rightly think it’s not fair for them to be so subjected to these horrible construction conditions,” Stetzer said. “But it’s important to recognize what can be done legally and what can’t be resolved,” she said. And the length of time of construction on a project is not one of the things that can be resolved legally, Stetzer said.

Economic reality should compel a developer to finish construction as soon as possible to make the project earn revenue.

But that reality hasn’t worked for Platt, the developer of 180 Orchard St.

Back in May 2005, the Department of Buildings issued a demolition permit to Onsite Demolition Truck Co. to take down the existing building. In November of that year, Remy Issac, of Issac & Stern architects, applied on behalf of the developer for a permit to build an eight-story residential hotel on the site, according to the Buildings Department.

The plan was “professionally certified,” the official name for the process commonly known as self-certification. The department randomly audits 20 percent of self-certified applications, in addition to other self-certified projects audited because of suspicions about the application’s completion or validity.

When the department files an objection, the developer has 10 days to answer and can then work with the department to cure the problem.

In December 2005, Buildings audited the eight-story hotel application for 180 Orchard St. and asked the developer for more information on the project, according to spokesperson Sullivan. In March 2006, the developer filed for and received a foundation permit. More than a year later, in July 2007, the developer filed an application for piles to be driven for the foundation, and on Sept. 6, the developer filed a site safety plan.

On Sept. 7 last year, Issac filed an amended plan on behalf of the developer, changing the project to a 26-story, mixed-use hotel and residential condo. That permit was certified by the Department of Buildings itself, rather than “professionally,” Sullivan said. And on Sept. 12, 2007, the permit was again changed to extend the project through to Ludlow St.

That Sept. 12, 2007, permit, however, was reviewed in April of this year, and the department issued the stop-work order on May 29.






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