Unfortunately, what’s happened now is that the burden is on the public to shell out major bucks to take the city to court to get them to obey the law and to treat these billionaire developers the same as everyone else. I think it’s a pretty sad state of affairs that citizens have to dig deeper into their pockets in order to get the court system to force the city to do that and to protect the interests of average New Yorkers as opposed to billionaire developers.
There was a lot of opposition marshaled early on against the Trump SoHo, including from public officials like U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler and State Senator Tom Duane. And it still went forward. So, again, what are the chances of stopping it?
It’s up to the courts at this point. It’s really impossible to say; you don’t even know which judge you’re going to get. All I can say is that logic is clearly on our side, but it doesn’t always win the day when it comes to land-use issues in New York City.
Is it premature for Mr. Trump to be moving forward at this time?
Mr. Trump is probably going to do and can do whatever he wants. I do think he knows full well, especially by creating this sort of fig-leaf restrictive declaration, that he’s on very shaky legal ground. [Editor’s note: Mr. Trump’s voluntary restrictive declaration is supposed to limit the number of days a condo owner can live in the Trump SoHo.] I’m sure he thinks it’s in his best interest to get this building up as soon as possible. He’s rolling the dice; we’ll see what happens.
Have you dealt with anyone in the Trump Organization or in the Sapir Organization, the co-developer?
I’ve spoken with them at hearings. They’ve made clear that they have every intention of trying to get this building built. And they’ve also said publicly exactly what they intend it to be: a place where people live. So at this point it’s not really about our negotiating with them; it’s about getting the city, through the courts, to enforce the law.
Maybe ‘depressing’ isn’t the right word, but does it ever get frustrating that, in the last few years, the regnant philosophy in New York real estate is that development is good? How does it feel to be outside the norm right now, to be going against the tide?
We’ve been pretty good at swimming upstream. And we’ve managed to make incredible progress and to have some huge victories. It does seem we’re going against the broader tide. In my life, I don’t just care about Greenwich Village—as important as my work down there is to me—but about the city as a whole on a lot of other issues.
It bothers and concerns me that the general shift in thinking is that anything that provides a public good should be harnessed to private development—and, if you can squeeze a public good out of it, great, but otherwise, it’s not going to happen. I think that’s just awful.