Volume 21, Number 40 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | February 13 - 19, 2009

Mixed Use

By Patrick Hedlund


Anti-Trump tactics
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!”


FiDi’s newest landmark
One Chase Manhattan Plaza in the Financial District became a New York City landmark this week after the Landmarks Preservation Commission officially designated the house that David Rockefeller built.

Considered one of the most important office towers built in Lower Manhattan since World War II, the 60-story skyscraper and 2.5-acre plaza was erected in 1964 under the guidance of Rockefeller and architect Gordon Bunshaft and his team at Skidmore Owings & Merrill.

“Few buildings have had as significant an impact on the character of Lower Manhattan as One Chase Manhattan Plaza,” said L.P.C. chairperson Robert Tierney in a statement announcing the designation. “It laid the groundwork for a Downtown renaissance, and served as a catalyst for the construction of other corporate towers immediately to the west, including the Marine Midland Bank, World Trade Center [another Rockefeller effort] and World Financial Center Complex.”

Located between Nassau and William Sts. between Liberty and Cedar Sts., the high-rise reflects the ideals of 20th-century European modernism, often called the International Style, and consists of six-story base with five floors beneath grade. This unusual design allowed for the installation of a sunken rock garden designed by Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi.

Rockefeller, former chairperson and C.E.O. of Chase Manhattan Bank, spearheaded the construction effort in 1957, leading to a revival of the neighborhood where few new buildings had been constructed since the Great Depression.


Vesuvio meltdown
New signage at the 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 building manager, 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. “I’ve tried to be kind.”

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.”

Lawrence did not return a call for comment.


mixeduse@communitymediallc.com




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