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An Object Lesson in Lack of Government Oversight

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Op-Ed BY ANDREW BERMAN, Executive Director, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation    October 2, 2014

The Trump SoHo.  Photo via The Villager.

The recent news that the Trump Soho Condo-Hotel is going into foreclosure and will be sold inspires some reflection.

How did we get saddled with this 454-foot-tall eyesore anyway, and how was something so clearly wrong ever allowed to be built?

The story starts when The Donald first announced plans for the Trump Soho on the finale of “The Apprentice” in May 2006. Condo-hotels were a new hybrid offering hotel services in buildings where individuals bought units to live themselves, rent out for income or use as a second or third home. Successful elsewhere, condo-hotels were just starting to enter the New York City market. But this was to be the first one in a New York City “manufacturing zone,” where new residences or “residential hotels” were prohibited by law. 

The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, and many others in the community, immediately slammed the plan. Not only would the enormous, unsightly glass tower be jarringly out of place, but the “condo-hotel” setup made it illegal.

These would, in effect, be residences, which violated the zoning — not a “transient hotel,” where rooms are rented on a daily basis for limited periods of time, which the zoning allowed. If the city just followed the law, we argued, the objectionable monument to The Donald’s ego could not be built; it would either have to be changed to a straight transient hotel, which meant in all likelihood it would not be built (the entire financing scheme was based upon the sale of individual condo units), or they would have to apply for a zoning change or variance to get permission for the condo-hotel usage. Such an application could be rejected, or could be approved only if other objectionable elements of the development, such as its height, size and design, were altered.

Read the entire piece in The Villager here.

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