De Blasio admin should be more aggressive with the former Trump SoHo site, advocates say

The Dominick, previously called Trump SoHo, falls under an agreement restricting how long residents and guests can stay in units. 
The Dominick, previously called Trump SoHo, falls under an agreement restricting how long residents and guests can stay in units.  Photo Credit: Shelby Knowles

While Mayor Bill de Blasio campaigns across the country arguing he can stand up to President Donald Trump, a preservation group that frequently clashes with his administration claims City Hall refuses to fully investigate the Trump Organization’s role in a troubled SoHo development.

The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation said it has been unsuccessfully urging the city Department of Buildings to exercise its right to require the former Trump SoHo, now called The Dominick, to pay for an independent monitor’s review of three years of residency practices — a requirement of building a condominium-hotel in a manufacturing zone.

The monitor’s examination would extend into the period when The Trump Organization managed the building, which concluded at the end of 2017, according to media reports.

“It does seem timely in terms of our mayor and his wanting to be on the national stage and say that he’s somebody who’s willing to take on Trump, but here at home, he seems to be all too unwilling to do it, certainly, at least in this case,” said Andrew Berman, GVSHP’s executive director.

De Blasio’s campaign press team referred requests for comment to the city government.

From the inception of Trump SoHo, GVSHP and its allies have fought against it, citing both its 450-foot height and the fact that occupants could purchase units (with access to hotel services) as part-time residences in a manufacturing zone. To ensure that 246 Spring St. remained a true, “transient hotel,” the city and a firm comprising The Trump Organization’s partners — the Sapir Organization and Bayrock Group — signed a restrictive declaration in 2007.

The document notes that no unit may be occupied by its owner or any other individual for a continuous period of more than 29 days during any 36-day span or for a total of more than 120 days a year. Software that tracks occupancy and automatically flags anyone exceeding their permitted stay is also required under the agreement.

Each year, the development must provide the DOB with a report on occupancy, certified by an independent accountant it hires. 

In 2013 GVSHP learned through a Freedom of Information Law request that no such reports had been submitted. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration subsequently received a $41,840 check from Trump SoHo for violations, according to the GVSHP.

The Sapir Organization did not respond to requests for comment, and the Bayrock Group could not be reached.

In 2014, CIM Group foreclosed on the building, which had fallen under a criminal investigation and settled a case brought by buyers who claimed they were defrauded, according to media reports.

Meanwhile, the GVSHP urged the new de Blasio administration to keep an eye on the annual filings. The site racked up another roughly $418,941.73 in fines in 2014, according to records GVSHP obtained under FOIL.

Near the end of 2017, The Trump Organization announced it was severing its management contract at the building, which CIM Group then renamed The Dominick, according to media reports.

Since then, the annual report was filed a few days past its March 31 due date in 2018 and resubmitted months later, which the preservation group said suggests it may have required revisions. It was submitted on time in 2019, GVSHP said.

Nevertheless, Berman said the track record at the site indicates the city would be wise to submit a list of three compliance monitor candidates to the building and force it to hire one.

“This is really a matter of good governance,” Berman said. “And I think that the mayor and the city’s Department of Buildings has been giving these guys a pass, and they don’t deserve it.”

CIM Group declined to comment, and The Trump Organization did not respond to requests for comment.

But the city DOB defended its handling of the matter.

“Under this mayor, DOB took action to hold the building owner accountable, resulting in payments of hundreds of thousands of dollars from the owner to the city. Since an independent accountant has certified that the Dominick Hotel is currently complying with the restrictive declaration, there is no basis to request a monitor,” department spokesman Joseph Soldevere said in a statement referencing certification done by an accountant of the development’s choosing. “We will continue to enforce this declaration and will take any actions we believe necessary if the building owner falls out of compliance in the future.”

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