BSA hears appeal on Trump SoHo project

Community group’s appeal seeks to halt construction of the 42story condo-hotel. On February 27, 2008, BSA heard testimony regarding the Department of Buildings’ approval for the Trump SoHo condominium hotel under construction at 246 Spring Street. The SoHo Alliance Community Group appealed, arguing that the condominium hotel contravenes the manufacturing zoning district’s prohibition against residential development.

Buildings approved the plans for the Trump Soho on September 28, 2007 with the condition that the developers file a restriction against the property that prohibits owners of any one of the condominium hotel’s 413 residential units from living there for more than 29 consecutive days in any 36-day period, or a total of about 120 days per calendar year. The rest of the time, owners would put their Trump SoHo units on the market for transient use on a daily or weekly basis. The restriction, according to Buildings, puts the Trump SoHo under the transient hotel exception to the general prohibition against residential developments in the area. Under the restriction, Buildings would conduct audits and/or issue financial penalties to enforce the transient use requirements.

At the hearing, the attorney for the Alliance, Stuart A. Klein, argued that Buildings’ assertion that the Trump SoHo falls within the definition of transient hotels is a “perversion of rational thought.” Klein argued that Buildings improperly expanded the statutory definition of transient hotels by allowing Trump SoHo units to be rented out on a weekly basis, even though the statutory definition only speaks to rentals on a daily basis. Klein also argued that because Trump SoHo units can still be occupied for protracted periods of time, are marketed as condominiums, and have permanent storage areas, they cannot be considered transient hotel units. Lastly, Klein argued that the restriction is unenforceable as the owners of Trump SoHo units could come and go freely.

Buildings countered that the floor plan and amenities for the Trump SoHo are characteristic of a transient hotel, not a residential development. Specifically, Buildings called BSA’s attention to the lack of trash chutes and individual mailboxes for Trump SoHo unit owners. Attorney Paul D. Selver of Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel, representing the Trump SoHo developers Bay-rock Group and Tamir Sapir, echoed Buildings’ arguments, claiming that Trump SoHo units are not designed for residential use because they lack amenities and facilities that such units are required to have by law. Indeed, Selver noted that 98.5 percent of all the units would not have kitchen facilities.

Council Member Tony Avella testified before BSA and stated that he was “appalled” that Buildings “bent the law” when it approved the Trump SoHo. Avella, who is also Chair of City Council’s Zoning & Franchises subcommittee, questioned Buildings’ ability to enforce the restriction.

Several groups testified against Buildings and the Trump SoHo, arguing that if BSA were to rule against the Alliance, it would be setting a dangerous precedent that would undermine manufacturing areas throughout the City. The opposition included the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, the Municipal Art Society, the East Williamsburg Valley Industrial Development Corporation, Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation, Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center, Garment Industry Development Corporation, New York Industrial Retention Network, and Manhattan Community Boards 1, 2, and 5.

BSA closed the public hearing, and announced that it will reconvene in April to consider supplemental arguments by both sides.

BSA: 246 Spring Street (247-07-A) (Feb. 27, 2008) (Stuart A. Klein, for SoHo Alliance; Mark Davis, for DOB; Paul Selver, for Trump SoHo).

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