Trump Soho hotel’s foes lose a round, but will continue fight


By Albert Amateau

A State Supreme Court justice has dismissed the lawsuit by the Soho Alliance challenging the city for approving the Trump Soho condominium-hotel at Varick and Spring Sts.

Justice Kibbie F. Payne ruled on Dec. 19 that the Board of Standards and Appeals was correct in September 2007 when it upheld the Department of Buildings permit for the hotel, which opponents have been insisting is not really a hotel but a “Trojan horse” residential building posing as a hotel.

The Trump Organization and its partners in the project, the Bayrock Group and the Sapir Organization, welcomed the ruling on Tues., Jan. 6.

“We are grateful for the decision, which was expected and we now look forward to preparing for the Trump Soho’s grand opening, which will be taking place in the fall of 2009,” said Julius Schwarz, of Bayrock, in a prepared statement.

The project rises 449 feet and has between 43 and 46 stories, depending on who is counting, but it is not yet complete.

However, Sean Sweeney, director of the Soho Alliance, said his neighborhood civic group would take the case to the Appellate Division.

“We have six months to do that, but I think the financial market is going to kill the project anyway,” said Sweeney.

Stuart Klein, the alliance’s attorney, said that in addition to appealing Justice Payne’s ruling, the alliance filed a letter of objection with the Department of Buildings charging that the project is overbuilt by several thousand square feet.

“We had two independent, reputable analysts examine the plans in early December and they found the building exceeds the square footage stated in the plans,” Klein said.

But D.O.B. rejected the letter of objection on Dec. 29, so the alliance is taking that issue to the Board of Standards and Appeals.

At the same time, the alliance has asked the New York State Attorney General’s Office to amend the Trump Soho’s condominium offering plan to reflect the fact that there are legal actions pending against the project, Klein said.

Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and an opponent of the project, said he was disappointed that Justice Payne “didn’t get the issues in the case,” adding that in Article 78 lawsuits that challenge a decision by a city agency, “one judge might see what another judge misses.”

The area where the project is nearing completion is a manufacturing zone where transient hotels are permitted but residential projects are not. Trump is developing a condo-hotel where investors buy units and rent them to transients; but, under a restrictive declaration the developers signed with the city, no one may occupy a unit for more than 120 days in any calendar year nor for more than 29 days within a 36-day period.

While the Soho Alliance contended that the inclusion of an owner’s locked storage closet in a unit indicates the unit is intended as a permanent residence, the B.S.A. held that the locked closet was evidence of the transient nature of a unit, and Justice Payne agreed.