The Donald has been in the news quite a bit lately, which is always fun for everyone.
Mr. Trump’s recent verbal assaults on our senses and sensibilities have reminded us of some of his shenanigans in our neighborhood over the years, largely in connection to the Trump SoHo ‘Condo-Hotel,’ and just how much the City allowed him to get away with.
In early June 2006, the Donald announced on his (since-cancelled) TV show “The Apprentice” that he was going to build a massive high-rise condo-hotel in SoHo (it was really Hudson Square, but let’s not confuse things with the facts). While the outdated zoning for the area allowed 45-story high-rises, it prohibited residential uses, and GVSHP led a campaign to prevent permits from being issued for the project based upon a condo-hotel really being more residence (illegal) than transient hotel (legal).
In spite of Trump and his partners repeatedly advertising the development as a “residence,” the City issued permits and allowed it to move ahead. Local elected officials including then-City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and then-Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer agreed with the City’s position that the project was legal.
Then Trump hit upon human remains from the burial ground for a 19th century abolitionist church which had been located on the site. While stopping the project briefly, the City still allowed Trump to move ahead.
Then the long and sordid criminal records and backgrounds of several of Trump’s business partners in the Trump SoHo were revealed, and yet the City allowed the project to continue.
Then a fatal accident at the building killed a construction worker. But the City still let Trump move ahead.
GVSHP and the SoHo Alliance took the case to court to contest the granting of the permits, claiming it violated the City’s own zoning regulations. The City spent taxpayer dollars to defend the Donald’s project in court. Quinn and Stringer refused to support the community’s case against Trump. The Board of Standards and Appeals led by then-Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan (now Mayor de Blasio’s Chair of the Landmarks Preservation Commission) ruled in favor of Trump and allowed the project to proceed.
At the Trump SoHo opening, GVSHP and other protesters were threatened with arrest by the NYPD if we did not move our protest a block away from the building site, out of view of the jet-setting guests who were arriving for the party.
After the Trump SoHo was opened, it was plagued with financial problems and lawsuits. GVSHP found repeated evidence of the City categorizing the development as a “residence,” which would be illegal, even though the City went to court to defend its claim that the Condo-Hotel would not be a residence, and therefore was legal under the zoning.
Then GVSHP uncovered that in the years following the Trump SoHo’s opening, in spite of our repeated requests, the City never conducted any of the legally-required inspections and audits to ensure that the development was complying with the law and was not illegally operating as a residence. Neither the City nor Council Speaker Quinn nor Borough President Stringer ever asked for any of the inspections required to prove the development’s legality, and ignored GVSHP’s requests for such reports until we filed a Freedom of Information Act request.
Finally, late last year, the Trump SoHo went into foreclosure, and early this year new owners indicated they would turn the development into a traditional hotel, which would at least make it legal, if not still garishly ugly and out of place.
The Donald has certainly been quite a gift to Lower Manhattan.