Volume 22, Number 28 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | November 20 - 26, 2009
By Patrick Hedlund
‘Bad landlord’ rebuffed
A developer’s request for a zoning change along a sleepy stretch of Sullivan St. to allow for commercial use on the ground floor was unanimously rejected by Community Board 2’s Zoning and Housing Committee in an advisory vote last week.
The application by Zaccaro Realty, which has developed an unfavorable reputation with some community advocates, seeks to extend an existing commercial overlay to include the property at 73-75 Sullivan St., between Spring and Broome Sts., permitting a large restaurant or bar on street level. The one-story building currently at the site, which houses a bakery and now-closed pasta maker, would be razed in order to construct a five-story residential structure with commercial use on the first floor, according to the owner’s plans.
“Not one person wanted it except Zaccaro, who’s filthy rich,” said committee member Sean Sweeney, speaking of real estate developer John Zaccaro’s attempts to develop larger commercial operations on the otherwise residential, tree-lined block. “This is about one property owner wanting to screw other property owners on this block so this guy who owns tons of properties can make more money,” he added.
Sweeney, who also heads the Soho Alliance, explained that one of Zaccaro’s other properties formerly was home to The Falls bar on Lafayette St. in Soho, where graduate student Imette St. Guillen had been partying before a bouncer there abducted and murdered her in 2006. The same space now houses the Midnight Café, which Sweeney said forced one 10-year tenant living behind the establishment to move out due to noise. He added that Zaccaro’s attorney did not disagree with the committee when it asked if the insistence on a commercial designation was motivated purely by profit.
“Why should we give this guy a break?” Sweeney continued. “He was being pushy, and hopefully City Planning is going to realize this. He’s been a bad landlord, a bad community member.”
Zaccaro is married to Geraldine Ferraro, the 1984 Democratic vice presidential nominee.
Picking up Downtown
Commercial leasing in Lower Manhattan shot up nearly 70 percent in the third quarter, as rents continued to drop and vacancies increased for the fourth consecutive quarter.
According to a real estate overview by the Alliance for Downtown New York, Lower Manhattan counted 931,694 total square feet of leasing activity in the third quarter of this year — a 69 percent uptick over last quarter and a 54 percent increase over the third quarter of 2008.
Average asking rents for commercial space Downtown fell by 4 percent since the second quarter — from $43.81 per square foot to $42.01 — including a more than 5 percent decrease in rents for Class A space. Average office prices overall have dropped 5.7 percent since the first quarter of the year.
Vacancy also edged up in the third quarter for all office types — from 8.7 percent at midyear to 9.9 percent currently — and saw a nearly 2 percent increase since the first quarter.
On the residential front, year-to-date sales have slipped by 23 percent compared to last year, with the average price per square foot in Lower Manhattan decreasing 16 percent since last year. The current average price per square foot, $978, marks a 5 percent decline over the previous quarter. Rentals prices have also weathered reductions, with slips of 13 to 15 percent year over year.
Lower Manhattan’s hotel market saw a boost in average daily room rates, coming in at $253.95 in the third quarter compared to $241.54 in the second quarter (a nearly 5 percent increase) and $222.07 in the first quarter (a 12.5 percent increase). However, the average current rate marks a 24 percent decline compared to last year.
Hotel occupancy also improved in the third quarter, jumping to 87.8 percent from 84.2 percent in the second quarter and 68.6 percent in the first quarter.