Borough Prez To Trump: Tread Carefully With Soho Condo-Hotel

The Real Estate originally reported on Wednesday about the Donald’s premature sales moves regarding his planned condo-hotel in Soho. Seems Trump posted a questionnaire on the condo-hotel’s Web site asking potential buyers if they would use the project as a “primary residence,” “secondary residence,” or “investment property.”

According to an email sent on Wednesday night to The Real Estate by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer’s office, it was the Beep who called Trump out on the questionnaire. (If Trump is, indeed, building a condo-hotel, he can’t sell the units as primary residences, and probably shouldn’t be touting them as secondary or as investment residences.)

Trump’s people took the questionnaire down on Wednesday afternoon.

After the jump, Stringer’s stern Wednesday letter to the city Department of Buildings, which has yet to grant Trump a permit for the condo-hotel (but probably will soon). It’s signed by other notables, including U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, whose name on the letter is misspelled.

UPDATE: Stringer’s office tells The Real Estate on Thursday morning that it caught the Nadler misspelling before the final letter went to the Buildings Department. The one after the jump is an earlier, uncorrected version. Whew!

UPDATE 2: Stringer’s office also tells The Real Estate that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn “wrote her own strong letter” to the department regarding Trump’s questionnaire.

- Tom Acitelli

THE CITY OF NEW YORK
OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT
BOROUGH OF MANHATTAN

December 06, 2006

Commissioner Patricia Lancaster
Department of Buildings
780 Broadway, 7th Floor
New York, NY 10007

Dear Commissioner Lancaster:

As you know, we are very concerned about the proposed condo-hotel at 246 Spring Street. This
is the first time that a condo-hotel has been proposed in a New York City manufacturing zoning
district – in this case, a district that permits transient hotels but prohibits residential development.

Although we understand that the City’s zoning does not, and cannot, regulate based on
ownership structure, it is very important to find some way within existing zoning to ensure that
this building operate as a hotel rather than as a residential building. Allowing development in
manufacturing zones that is effectively residential in nature would have a dramatic impact on our
neighborhoods and on the City’s economy, letting loose a wave of luxury residential
development in areas that are supposed to be reserved for commercial and light manufacturing
uses.

The developer has consistently assured City government officials, and said publicly, that the
project would be a transient hotel that is as-of-right and therefore permitted by the City’s zoning.
As you know, we have urged you to explore every option available to ensure that this project
operate as a short-stay, transient occupancy hotel, and have urged that any restrictions on the
property’s use be enforced as tightly as possible. We understand that you are currently
discussing with the developer how this might be achieved.

So it is very important to note that on its web site, http://www.trumpsoho.com, the developer asks
potential condo unit buyers to answer the question, “What will the property be used for?” and
offers a drop-down menu of three options: “Primary Residence,” “Secondary Residence,” or
“Investment Property,” (see enclosed, current as of the writing of this letter, emphasis added)! In
addition, the brochure the developer is distributing to interested potential buyers (enclosed)
features kitchenettes in the units, a clearly residential amenity that DOB already told the
developer was impermissible at this site.

As you know, residential use is clearly prohibited by the City’s zoning for this site. It is
outrageous and disingenuous for the developer to assure the City that it will be operating a
transient hotel while openly advertising the building’s availability as a primary and secondary
residence. Unfortunately, this behavior entirely validates our feeling that this project, if regulated too loosely, could be an “end-run” around the City’s zoning, and that extraordinary steps must be taken to ensure that this purportedly “transient hotel” really operates as such.

Before continuing any discussions with the developer, we ask that you please confirm with the
developer that the website and brochure have been corrected, and that potential buyers are being, and will be, explicitly informed that units at 246 Spring Street are not available for residential use, but only for transient occupancy. We also request an explanation as to how the developer’s website and brochure could have come to contain this inaccurate information, since the developer has known since the inception of this project that only transient uses would be
permitted at the site. Until these requests have been met satisfactorily, it is hard to see how the
City can have a good-faith negotiation with–and, indeed, approve permits for–a party that
publicly indicates it will abide by the law, while its actions indicate otherwise. Even after the
requested explanation and requests are provided, future discussions should only proceed with a
dose of heavy skepticism about the developer’s intentions to operate this project as a transient
hotel.

We look forward to working with you on this important matter.

Sincerely,
Scott M. Stringer
Manhattan Borough President

Jerold Nadler
Member of Congress

Tom Duane
State Senator

Deborah Glick
Assembly Member

cc: Department of City Planning
Community Board Two
Bayrock/Sapir LLC
Soho Alliance
Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation