City halts Trump project

By Lincoln Anderson

The discovery of human remains at the site of the planned Trump Soho condo-hotel at Spring and Varick Sts. led the Department of Buildings on Tuesday to issue a stop-work order for the project.

Jennifer Givner, a D.O.B. spokesperson, said the remains were removed by the city’s medical examiner for closer inspection. Lisi de Bourbon, Landmarks spokesperson, said Landmarks gave advice to the developers — Trump and Bayrock/Sapir — mainly that they retain their own archaeologist. “Trump’s people have hired an archaeologist and are in the process of figuring out what to do with the remains,” de Bourbon said.

Buildings spokesperson Givner said it was a “unique case.”

Andrew Berman, director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation — who has been a leading critic of the planned 45-story condo-hotel — found that the site was formerly home to the city’s oldest Presbyterian church, which was razed in the 1960s and became a parking lot. Berman said the remains may have been from a cemetery attached to the church or a burial ground predating the church.

On Wednesday, the developers were quoted in the New York Post as saying that the spot where the remains were found would be an open plaza and not covered by the building.

“Whoever’s bodies they are, they deserve a certain level of respect and care — and I don’t think it should be left to Trump to do that,” said Berman. “He has a vested interest in plowing ahead with his construction.”

Berman and other opponents have been fighting the condo-hotel, charging that people will be living in the condos year-round, in violation of the site’s zoning. The city hasn’t issued a permit for the building yet, but has allowed excavation of the site.

Realtors for Trump were marketing the condos on the Web for use as a “primary residence,” and the city’s tourist agency, NYC & Co., also had a listing that the units were for “year-round” occupancy. Both listings have since been pulled.

Asked if this would affect Buildings’ decision, Givner said they were just “marketing” and that Buildings will make its decision based on the application. But she said D.O.B. won’t approve any residential use at the site. “We’re not ignoring these advertisements. We see them,” Givner said. “That’s not the permitted use for this type of neighborhood and the department’s not going to approve plans for long-term residence.”

Berman said he was “appalled” to hear that D.O.B. hasn’t been more alarmed by the Web listings.

“What more evidence do they need to be presented with? Everyone except the city and D.O.B. gets it that this is going to be used as residences,” he said. “Trump’s realtors get it. Trump gets it.”