Preservationist group raises new questions about Trump Soho zoning status

November 27, 2012 02:00PM

The Trump Soho is a something of a hybrid: a 391-unit condominium tower with restrictions on how long owners can occupy their apartments—a compromise designed to allow developers Donald Trump, the Bayrock Group and the Sapir Organization to build the project, despite the lot’s commercial zoning.

But a Department of City Planning map, uncovered yesterday by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, lists the parcel at 246 Spring Street as a “mixed residential and commercial building.” The discovery has reignited the non-profit’s doubts about the legality of the luxury tower, and what it sees as the city’s special treatment of the developer.

Under the city’s zoning rules, the construction of new buildings for residential uses at the site is prohibited. But when the developers proposed the 454-foot tower, officials including City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer struck a deal to let the project go ahead. Owners cannot stay in their units for more than 29 days in a 36-day stretch and cannot live there for more than 120 days per year, effectively making the building a hotel, rather than a residence.

But it seems the city was being disingenuous, according to the Greenwich Village Society, a longtime opponent of the project. “Lest you think this one map is the product of an arm of city government which had nothing to do with the decision to allow the Trump SoHo to be built, think again,” Andrew Berman, the Executive Director of GVSHP, wrote.

The City Planning map dates back to 2010, and has been used several times recently by the agency in environmental reviews for a nearby project at 180 Sixth Avenue and for the proposed Hudson Square rezoning. The agency is the same one that issued the interpretation that the Trump Soho was not residential.

The Trump Soho project has faced some hurdles, including lawsuits from local residents, a settlement with condo buyers that forced the developers to return 90 percent of their deposits, a fatal construction accident and the discovery of an abolitionist church burial ground on the site. [GVSHP]Christopher Cameron