Before last night’s Community Board 2, representatives for the proposed Trump International Hotel and Tower (to be located at 246 Spring Street) nervously paced the linoleum halls of Housing Works, at 320 West 13th Street, thumbing at cell phones and BlackBerries.
Unfortunately, Sean Yazbeck, the most recent Apprentice winner–who the Donald has tapped to manage the project–was not in attendance.
As The Real Estate reported yesterday, community activists led by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation are opposing the Trump-led plan to build 45-story condo-hotel in Hudson Square.
At the heart of their opposition is the claim that the newest Trump Tower would violate zoning laws by placing permanent residences in an area zoned for manufacturing.
Last night, GVSHP’s Andrew Berman told the gathering of about sixty Village residents that the project is a “Trojan horse” and a “back-door method to sneak in illegal development.”
Berman began his self-described “spiel” by asking those in attendance to raise their hands if they opposed the Trump venture. As in a first-grade class obeying its teachers, a roomful of hands shot up.
Richard Laltrelli and Paul Silver had the unfortunate position of defending the building, which, if approved by the City, would begin construction by the end of the year.
“I want to set the record straight,” began Mr. Laltrelli, dressed meticulously in a suit and tie–a sharp contrast to the casually attired crowd. “This project is a hotel. It will have 400 employees, restaurants, a bar.”
(Indeed, zoning rules allow “transient” residences in the area, such as a hotel).
“This community definitely needs banquet facilities,” Laltrelli explained.
Apparently not. Mr. Laltrelli’s assertion was met with a few emphatic “No’s” from the audience.
“There won’t be 400 employees because it’s not happening,” shouted one Village resident shouted.
Richard Rubenstein, whose public relations firm represents Trump, tried to calm things down.
“Let him finish,” said Mr. Rubenstein. “It’s not fair.”
Later on, Mr. Silver asked (rhetorically, it seemed), “Is the building going to be tall? Is it going to be horrendously out-of-scale?” That question elicited a bellowing “Yes!”
The excitable audience had found its call-and-response rhythm.
Residents cited nostalgia, history, environment, and safety as the reasons for their opposition. One board member noted that the location of the proposed hotel was once “the Yankee Stadium of stickball.” Stickball!
“I don’t want a 45-story building,” said another resident. “What if the people of Soho don’t want the landscape to change? This is going to be forced down their throat to feed his insatiable appetite.”
( For anyone confused where she stood on the issue, the Soho resident was sporting a navy blue T-shirt emblazoned with the less-than-catchy slogan: “Hey Trump Soho is Fine Without Your 45-Story Hotel.”)
“I don’t care what you put in there,” another neighbor chimed in. “You can put conferences rooms or bananas. It will destroy everything that is Soho.”
“You are destroying part of the diversity and character that makes New York,” said the daughter of Soho artists. “This is not Trump City. This is New York City.”
“Do you even live in New York?” said one resident to Mr. Laltrelli.
Laltrelli conceded that he did, in fact, live in New Jersey.
The Real Estate caught up with Mr. Laltrelli after the meeting, slightly flummoxed.
“I think the community doesn’t have the facts straight,” he said. “We think it’s great for the community.”
– Samuel Jacobs