The malling of Soho: Big-box plan sparks big anger from locals

Screenshot 2017-03-17 16.32.55

A photo from 2012 of 462 Broadway, which stretches between Grand and Crosby Sts. It was built in 1880 by Mills & Gibb, a firm specializing in importing and jobbing lace, linen and dry goods.

BY DENNIS LYNCH | The owners of a large, six-story commercial building in Soho who want to convert it into one jumbo-sized retail space enthusiastically presented their plan to locals and the Community Board 2 Land Use Committee last Wednesday night. To their chagrin, they were met with near-unanimous opposition from those at the meeting.

Steve Meringoff, the owner of 462 Broadway, and his team specifically are requesting two special permits to make over the 1880 building into a single, large, 45,000-square-foot store.

However, many locals said the store would bring throngs of customers, noisy late-night deliveries and heaps of trash to the area around it, and made that clear in no uncertain terms.

“You have a right to make money, but you don’t have a right to destroy the quality of my life,” a longtime Crosby St. resident declared. He noted that on that street, on a regular basis, delivery trucks unload merchandise and trash trucks pick up refuse from other large retailers.

Around 40 local residents turned out for the meeting. Every single one of the two dozen or so who spoke opposed Meringoff’s request for a special permit to allow him to exceed the area’s 10,000 square-foot limit on ground-floor retail. The owner also hopes to use the building’s basement and parts of its upper floors for retail. City zoning regulations require any property owner who wants to obtain such a special permit to bring the application first to the local community board for an advisory vote, after which the Department of Buildings officially decides on the request. Yet, few Soho property owners actually follow that path, many of them bypassing the community board.

Soho has become one of the world’s premier retail districts, but is actually zoned for manufacturing. Meringoff, like all the district’s other property owners, needs a separate special permit to rent the ground floor for retail use in the first place.

It’s a 60-day review process and Meringoff will either resubmit the current plan for a vote at C.B. 2 or revise and resubmit it for review next month. The Land Use Committee didn’t take an official position on the first proposal, but committee chairperson Anita Brandt said the hope is that the development team returns with a proposal for around three smaller stores on the ground floor and office space on the upper floors.

Many locals are all but completely soured on large-scale retail in Soho, though, because of the disruption they say that it brings to the neighborhood. Only adding to residents’ anger and frustration, most property owners who have opened large-scale retail in the area have skirted the special-permit process by exploiting loopholes in city regulations. Some have long accused D.O.B. of failing to — or intentionally choosing not to — enforce the regulations.

The last time a property owner requested a similar special permit was in 2009. Owners of an empty lot at Lafayette and E. Houston Sts. received one for an entirely new building with oversized retail in 2013, according to local activist Pete Davies. While many locals commended Meringoff for at least going through the proper process, his apparent genuine desire to go by the books still didn’t warm them to his plans.

In some respects, last Wednesday night at C.B. 2, Meringoff and his team stood in as punching bags for the previous actions of other property owners. Residents voiced their pent-up frustrations — built up over years — passionately venting over late-night deliveries to large-scale retailers in the area and the bright lights these stores keep on overnight, even when the stores are closed.

But Brandt said she didn’t think the community would want a big-box retailer, even if those bad actors had never poisoned the well. She said large-scale retail creates “an environment of destination shopping where people are driving to a store, double-parking. It’s creating huge volumes of trash, huge volumes of deliveries. And because [the area is] residential in nature, it’s a conflict, inherently.

“What we’re trying to maintain is a mixed-use community, not one thing or another,” she added.

Brandt noted that the city has denied special permits for large retail in the neighborhood before, notably when Scholastic wanted to create up to 32,000 square feet of retail space in its corporate headquarters at 557 Broadway. The city’s Board of Standards and Appeals denied that first application and later approved the retail conversion only if Scholastic broke the space up into parts less than 10,000 square feet in size.

Meringoff himself, standing at the front of the New York University classroom where last Wednesday’s C.B. 2 committee meeting was held, bore the brunt of the criticism. He has owned 462 Broadway since 1981. He pledged to put strict stipulations into any lease he signs with a retail tenant. These would include limiting delivery hours and restricting lighting on the building’s upper floors, to prevent the “nightmare” so many locals described with other large-scale retail stores.

He said that he would maintain a dialogue with nearby residents and work to solve any issues they brought to him. He said he has no plans to dump the property for an easy dollar.

“Listen, this is our baby, we are going to live with this and I will die with this building,” he told the crowd. “This is a legacy asset for us. We are not here to make a quick buck — up the net income and sell it.”

Meringoff wants the special permit because the International Culinary Center, which used the space since 1984 as a sort of test kitchen and restaurant, decided to change its business model and use only space on the upper floors. Zoning allowed the culinary school to use such a large space on the ground floor. Meringoff was legally required to advertise the space to get a conforming-use tenant for a year. He said he did so for two years, but didn’t get any bites. Many at the meeting were skeptical, though.

Now Meringoff either needs to break up the large space, rent it as commercial — rather than retail — space, or get a special permit. Many locals urged him do either the first option. But he said that Americans With Disabilities Act handicap-access and Landmarks Preservation Commission rules wouldn’t allow for the new entrances that multiple spaces would need.

Brandt, who is an architect specializing in landmarked buildings, said Meringoff could make it work, “no sweat,” she said.

“We hear that every week at the Landmarks Commission, that’s something you have to solve,” she said. “And, especially, if you do a big development, you can comply with A.D.A. inside the building. A big project like this is perfect for it — build the ramps inside. This is an ideal project for smaller stores.”

Some people told Meringoff they didn’t think a large-scale retail space would be in his best interests right now, anyway. Soho is ground zero for a citywide retail-market slump, they noted. The price per square foot of retail space in Soho along Broadway dropped from $824 last spring to $755 this past fall, according to figures collected by the Real Estate Board of New York and referenced in a recent New York Times article.

Robin Abrams, vice chairperson of real estate firm The Lansco Corporation, said that the retail boom in Soho “is softening partly because rents became overly aggressive and inappropriate.” Retailers are also realizing they can do the same business with less-expensive, smaller spaces, she said.

Abrams offered that community sentiment would mainly depend on what sort of tenant Meringoff wanted to bring into such a large space at 462 Broadway. A retailer similar to Bloomingdale’s, for example, could be better received than a discount big-box store, she noted.

“It’s a question of what that use is and why that landlord wants to create a big space, when there’s large retail spaces sitting vacant,” she said. She added that if the space could be divided up in compliance with A.D.A. and L.P.C. rules, then she would market it as flexible —  she would offer a variety of options to tenants and fit them in like pieces of a puzzle.

“You could have a retailer that takes a portion of  the ground floor combined with the upper floor, and another retailer that leases a portion of the ground floor with some of the lower level, with separate individual stores for the remaining ground floor,” she explained. “I would go out to the market on a flexible basis. But if someone came to me and wanted to lease the entire space, then I would present that, as well, and the landlord would compare each scenario in order to choose how to proceed.”

One resident who lives across Grand St. from 462 Broadway and wished not to be named told Meringoff maybe it’s time to sell the property or lower his asking rent price to attract a conforming-use tenant. The resident said he bought his loft knowing that “a Best Buy or Bloomingdale’s” wasn’t allowed across the street, and that Meringoff made his purchase knowing the same, so he has to live with it.

“Unfortunately, like everyone who makes investments, we are governed by what’s allowed in our spaces,” he said. “So, perhaps you made a poor investment. I think not. I’m sure it’s paid dividends for years, so it’s been a terrific investment. But maybe it won’t be as good as an investment going forward.”

SoHo Ain’t Herald Square

 Screenshot 2017-03-05 19.04.55
– Permit Sought for 4 Floors of Oversized 45,201sf Department Store at 462 Broadway
– Attend Community Board Meeting Wednesday to Speak Out Against the Plan
 
Under SoHo’s unique and successful zoning, retail stores greater than 10,000 sq ft require a Special Permit from the City Planning Commission to operate.  This is to encourage smaller, independent, creative retailers and to prevent large flagship stores from overwhelming our community.
It worked well at first.  However, in the past decade or two, the Department of Buildings has basically turned its back on enforcing these zoning laws.  Oversized stores have sprung up along Broadway, like Bloomingdale’s, Old Navy, Zara, Hollister, Nike, American Eagle and UNIQLO –  to the detriment of SoHo.  Residents complain of swarms of shoppers, increasingly congested sidewalks, crowded subway platforms, noise and disturbance from late-night construction and deliveries, and oppressive illumination.
Lately SoHo activists have been putting pressure on the Buildings Department, City Planning, our elected officials and the community board to curtail this abuse.  As a result, we now see developers applying for the Special Permit.  This permit process mandates community review and input, giving us an opportunity to amend and even reject the proposal if it causes negative impacts on the neighborhood.
462 Broadway is the block-long building on the northeast corner with Grand that stretches to Crosby, former home of the French Culinary Institute. The owner has applied for a Special Permit to use four floors of the building as a 45,201 sq ft department store. See the rendering at the bottom of this email.

The community board has scheduled a meeting to hear the presentation and to give us an opportunity to voice our opinion on whether SoHo needs yet another megastore.  If this Special Permit is granted, expect other developers to follow suit and have these stores spring up not only on Broadway, but the side streets as well.  Who wants to live in Herald Square?

WHAT: Land Use & Business Development Committee, Community Board 2
WHEN: Wednesday, March 8, 6:30 pm
WHERE: NYU Building, 194 Mercer Street (Houston/Bleecker), Room 306 (ID Required)
Regards,
Sean Sweeney
Director, SoHo Alliance
PO Box 429
New York, NY 10012

 

Pondering Pier 40’s Future

An aerial view of what Pier 40 looks like now, ringed by its three-story “donut”-shaped shed, sporting parked cars on the rooftop level. There is also parking on the first floor and a bit on the second floor. In addition to its sprawling courtyard sports field, the pier also has a smaller field on the southeast corner of its rooftop.

An aerial view of what Pier 40 looks like now, ringed by its three-story “donut”-shaped shed, sporting parked cars on the rooftop level. There is also parking on the first floor and a bit on the second floor. In addition to its sprawling courtyard sports field, the pier also has a smaller field on the southeast corner of its rooftop. Photo courtesy The Villager.

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | In what is being hailed as a major victory for the community, the agreement for the St. John’s Partners project recently approved by the City Council states that no more development rights from Hudson River Park may be transferred into Community Board 2 (CB2) after this one megaproject.

However, on the other hand, the agreement does allow the Hudson River Park Trust, the park’s governing state/city authority, to use the currently unused so-called “air rights” of Pier 40 on the actual W. Houston St. pier itself.

The massive former shipping pier boasts significant air rights, and there is already disagreement brewing between the Trust and the community over whether the authority should use all of those on the pier — or just a portion of them.

To that end, Terri Cude, the new chairperson of CB2, said the challenge on Pier 40 will be to strike a balance between “the needs of the park and protecting the community from overdevelopment.”

Meanwhile, the planned 1.7-million-square-foot St. John’s development will have 1,600 apartments and stretch for three blocks along West and Washington Sts. opposite Pier 40 at W. Houston St. A key part of the project is that its developers have agreed to buy 200,000 square feet of unused air rights from the park’s sprawling 15-acre pier for $100 million.

After these development rights are transferred to the St. John’s project, however, Pier 40 will still have an additional 380,000 square feet of unused air rights left. As for the currently “used” air rights on the pier, its existing three-story “donut”-shaped pier-shed structure encloses roughly 760,000 square feet of space.

Image courtesy Office of Assemblymember Deborah Glick Back in Sept. 2012, when the Hudson River Park Trust was exploring building luxury residential housing and a hotel on Pier 40, a staffer in Assemblymember Deborah Glick’s Office created this computer illustration, giving a rough sense of how Pier 40 could look with 15-story towers added along its northern edge. Image Courtesy The Villager.

Image courtesy Office of Assemblymember Deborah Glick
Back in Sept. 2012, when the Hudson River Park Trust was exploring building luxury residential housing and a hotel on Pier 40, a staffer in Assemblymember Deborah Glick’s Office created this computer illustration, giving a rough sense of how Pier 40 could look with 15-story towers added along its northern edge. Image Courtesy The Villager.

Local youth sports leagues plan to work with the Trust, CB2 and local politicians on a plan for the pier’s future design that would fully or partially open up its eastern and western sides, while pushing the pier’s commercial structures to its northern and southern edges. This would actually increase the amount of field space on the pier. The Trust wants to develop commercial office space on the pier, but that would need an amendment in Albany, since the Hudson River Park Act does not currently allow office use at Pier 40.

Asked if there are any preliminary design plans for Pier 40 right now, a Trust spokesperson said, “No plans at the moment, but if there were an increase in area for ball fields, some of the [existing] buildings would have to be re-massed.” Whether that means the new structures would be taller — and how much taller — isn’t immediately known, at least not publicly. Theoretically, more floors just could be added within roughly the space of the existing envelope since the current pier shed has very high ceilings.

Air-rights transfers from the 4-mile-long West Side waterfront park up to one block inland were unheard of until 2013, when a surprise amendment to the Park Act at the very end of the Albany legislative session abruptly flipped the landscape.

However, some people scoff at the very notion that piers should have any air rights at all. Indeed, one skeptical local politician has been heard to utter this in private. Be that as it may, under current city zoning regulations, commercial piers — as opposed to recreational piers — do have development rights. Under the Park Act, Pier 40 is designated for a mix of recreational and commercial uses; it currently sports heavily used ball fields and a commercial parking operation.

The final agreement for the St. John’s project, which was brokered by Councilmember Corey Johnson in early December, states that the park’s unused development rights can only be transferred into the adjacent community board district. So, any air rights from Pier 40 can only be transferred into CB2, whose waterfront boundary stretches between W. 14th and Canal Sts.

As for the southern third of the park, in Tribeca, it has no commercial piers, so there will be no air-rights transfers into Community Board 1. Meanwhile, there are commercial piers in the park’s Chelsea/Clinton section — such as Chelsea Piers — so Community Board 4 (CB4) will no doubt see its share of park air-rights transfers in the future.

A consultant’s 2012 rendering, showing rudimentary massing studies for how Pier 40 could have been redeveloped with residential housing, a hotel and sports fields. The housing, about 15 stories tall (equal in height to the nearby Morton Square residential development), is depicted in yellow, the hotel (just east of a raised soccer field) in dark magenta, and the sports fields and open space in green. Spaces for the Trust’s operations and offices are in dark purple and medium purple, respectively. Parking is gray, retail is red and where an indoor field might have gone is shown in blue. This plan never got off the drawing board due to lack of local political support. Now, four-and-half years later, the Trust is hoping to be allowed to build commercial office space on the pier, but would need a legislative amendment in Albany to do so. Image courtesy The Villager.

A consultant’s 2012 rendering, showing rudimentary massing studies for how Pier 40 could have been redeveloped with residential housing, a hotel and sports fields. The housing, about 15 stories tall (equal in height to the nearby Morton Square residential development), is depicted in yellow, the hotel (just east of a raised soccer field) in dark magenta, and the sports fields and open space in green. Spaces for the Trust’s operations and offices are in dark purple and medium purple, respectively. Parking is gray, retail is red and where an indoor field might have gone is shown in blue. This plan never got off the drawing board due to lack of local political support. Now, four-and-half years later, the Trust is hoping to be allowed to build commercial office space on the pier, but would need a legislative amendment in Albany to do so. Image courtesy The Villager.

Madelyn Wils, the Trust’s president and CEO, at times over the past summer said that the entire park currently has roughly 1.6 million square feet of unused air rights available for purchase. (At the time, that included the 200,000 square feet slated for the St. John’s project, which had yet to be approved.) Based on that figure, then, the CB4 park section likely has about 1 million square feet of unused air rights available for purchase and transfer along that part of the waterfront.

CB2 Chairperson Cude said the board is gearing up to tackle the Pier 40 redesign — including the question of how its air rights will be used.

“A CB2 working group on Pier 40 redevelopment is currently in formation,” she told our sister publication, The Villager. “It will collect input and build consensus on the needs of the park and protecting the community from overdevelopment. Until that public process takes place, CB2 does not have a position on what may or may not be appropriate on the pier.”

Asked who will chair the working group, Cude said she is planning to appoint Tobi Bergman, who chaired CB2 for the past two years. Bergman is one of the local youth sports advocates most associated with trying to ensure the pier’s survival as a youth sports mecca into the future.

Asked for comment, Bergman said, “All concerned parties, including the community, will have to be involved in the discussions about the pier. At least now, the Trust can start fixing the piles.”

The $100 million that the St. John’s Partners development team will pay the Trust for the 200,000 square feet of air rights will go toward Pier 40’s most pressing maintenance issue — the repair of all 3,500 of Pier 40’s corroded steel support piles. The work will begin in the spring. Under the air-rights legislation passed in 2013, the proceeds from the sale of any air rights from Pier 40 must go back into the W. Houston St. pier’s repair and maintenance.

Asked how much it will cost to repair all 3,500 piles, the Trust spokesperson said $104 million, based on an estimate in a 2015 report on the pier by Halcrow engineers (now known as CH2M). In addition to the $100 million from the air-rights sale, as part of the final St. John’s deal, the city agreed to kick in $14 million for Pier 40, which should cover the pile repairs.

Meanwhile, during the recent ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) public review for the St. John’s project, Trust CEO Wils fought strenuously, though ultimately unsuccessfully, for the Trust to be allowed to transfer the rest of Pier 40’s unused air rights into CB2. Not surprisingly, she is now eager to max out the use of the remaining air rights on Pier 40 itself for commercial use, since the Trust can’t sell them outside of the park.

Asked for comment, the Trust spokesperson said, “Madelyn has said publicly several times that the Trust hopes to use all of Pier 40’s remaining development rights on the pier itself for a potential commercial project. This would require two changes to the Hudson River Park Act through the state Legislature. The Trust would then work with local electeds and the community on a redevelopment plan for the pier.”

Asked if the Trust would heed the community’s wishes and consider not using all the remaining air rights, the spokesperson indicated that the authority feels it’s important to squeeze revenue out of the pier. That said, he added the project will be “less intensive,” apparently referring to how heavily the pier is used commercially.

“In accordance with the Hudson River Park Act, Pier 40 is intended as a significant revenue generator for the entire park, so our intention is to use all of Pier 40’s remaining development rights,” he said. “As we’re now limited to where we can transfer them inland, we intend to pursue a development on the pier that uses the remaining development rights and that is compatible with ball field use, which will remain and likely be improved. Keep in mind, the funding secured earlier this month already gives any eventual development on the pier a leg up, removing a large financial burden and allowing for a less-intensive project.”

A typical scene at Pier 40 in Hudson River Park includes droves of young athletes and parents streaming to and from the pier’s artificial-turf sports fields. The trapeze seen at the top of the photo has relocated to Williamsburg. The Hudson River Park Trust and local youth sports leagues will be looking at ideas for removing all or parts of the pier shed on the east (above) and west sides of the pier, and re-massing the pier’s commercial space on its northern and southern edges. If that is done, then in the future, the above view might show the pier’s playing fields with the Hudson River and sky visible in the background. Photo courtesy The Villager.

A typical scene at Pier 40 in Hudson River Park includes droves of young athletes and parents streaming to and from the pier’s artificial-turf sports fields. The trapeze seen at the top of the photo has relocated to Williamsburg. The Hudson River Park Trust and local youth sports leagues will be looking at ideas for removing all or parts of the pier shed on the east (above) and west sides of the pier, and re-massing the pier’s commercial space on its northern and southern edges. If that is done, then in the future, the above view might show the pier’s playing fields with the Hudson River and sky visible in the background. Photo courtesy The Villager.

SoHo Alliance – January 2017

We are your neighborhood watchdogs.  We work with elected officials and city agencies to ensure our community thrives.  Our hotline (212-353-8466) is available seven days a week to assist residents and businesses alike when a problem arises or questions need answered.
Our work over the years controlling inappropriate development pressures has helped contribute to the phenomenal  rise in our neighborhood’s property values.  Our achievements in historic preservation have turned SoHo into one of the most renowned landmarked districts in the city.  Our success at curtailing nightclubs and late-night bars have ensured a quiet neighborhood in the evening once the shoppers and tourists depart.  We monitor and curtail aggressive retailers who put their profits ahead of our quality of like.  We serve on the community board, giving you a voice in city government.
We shall continue our mission in 2017 but we need you to invest in SoHo and in your own well-being.
Click here to contribute online.  Or mail you check to SoHo Alliance, PO Box 429, New York, NY 10012.  If you wish a reply envelope to mail your donation, email us at info@sohoalliance.org and we’ll get one off to you immediately.
Wishing you and yours all the best in 2017,
Regards,
Sean Sweeney, Director
SoHo Alliance

SoHo News Update – Solstice Edition

– Sullivan-Thompson Historic District Designated!
– Pier 40 / St. John’s Agreement Approved – Community Comes Out Ahead
– NYU’s Behemoth Revealed = Ugh!

First, we wish you and yours all the best for the holidays and the new year ahead.

At this time, we also ask you to help us in our efforts to maintain our neighborhood’s integrity and sustainability in 2017.

Please make a contribution to the SoHo Alliance at http://www.sohoalliance.org/join.html or mail your check to us at PO Box 429, New York, NY 10012.  
We only ask once a year, so please be generous.
This is a gift that will benefit you for years to come.

– Sullivan-Thompson Historic District Designated
On Tuesday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously voted to designate a new historic district on SoHo’s western side, the South Village’s Sullivan-Thompson Historic District. Click here for a map and images of the new historic district.

The City had long refused to consider landmark protections for the area, until the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation mobilized the local community to oppose a proposed rezoning of the nearby three-block-long St. John’s Building site in West SoHo (Houston Street between Washington and West Streets), as well as to demand landmark protections for the South Village.

GVSHP, SoHo Alliance, Community Board 2  and community leaders argued that the proposed rezoning, supported by the City, would increase development pressure on the nearby historic and endangered South Village.  City Councilmember Corey Johnson championed this cause, securing a commitment from the Landmarks Preservation Commission to consider designation.

Historic designation protects 160 buildings from demolition and possible replacement with high-rise towers not unlike Trump SoHo, which the SoHo Alliance fought hard against.  Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, owns one such property, the large empty lot and adjacent tenement building on the southwest corner of Houston and Sullivan Street.  Local residents have repeatedly contacted the SoHo Alliance, expressing their fears that Kushner would want to build a tower there to rival his father-in-law’s.  This landmarking designation greatly relieves those and other concerns.

– Pier 40 / St. John’s Agreement Approved
In another extraordinary victory for our community this past week, the City Council approved the Pier 40/St. John’s rezoning plan, negotiated by our Councilmember Corey Johnson.  (Johnson’s district starts on the west side of Thompson Street and extends to the Hudson River; Margaret Chin’s district starts on the east side of Thompson and extends to the East River)

Bouyed by a widespread community effort again spearheaded by GVSHP and the community board, Johnson was able to secure many protections and benefits that the Greenwich Village and SoHo communities have been fighting for years to attain.

Because this struggle extends almost half a century, having its genesis in the failed Westway controversy of the 70s and 80s, we won’t fill you in all details here, but refer you to this comprehensive article in The Villager.

Basically, the deal consists of rezoning the St. John’s site from manufacturing to residential use, while transferring 200,000 square feet of Pier 40 air rights into the new project.   In turn, Pier 40 will get an infusion of $100 million in exchange for the air rights, with the money being used to shore up the 15-acre pier’s badly corroded pilings.  Johnson also secured $14 million in City funding to ensure the pier’s sustainability.

The existing three-block-long St. John’s building will be demolished and replaced with a 43-story building.  Yes, this is a very tall building on our low-rise waterfront.  However, what could have been built there without this deal would have been much worse, e.g., a hotel, a big box store, offices, or event spaces that would have drawn loads of people through our neighborhood, but add not one resident or a single unit of affordable housing, or any community amenity.

There will be 1,586 residential units, 476 of them permanently affordable.  Of these, 175 units will be for low-income seniors; the rest for low- and moderate-income families.  After this one-time air-rights transfer, the deal prohibits any future transfers, ensuring that no more high rises will be constructed along our community’s waterfront.

Seven street-level retail stores and a 10,000 square-foot gym to be shared with the building residents and the public are part of the settlement.  A much-needed supermarket will be also included.  Big box stores over 10,000 square-feet will not be permitted.

– NYU’s Behemoth Revealed = Ugh!
Not everything went so well for us this week.  NYU finally revealed the drawings for its so-called Zipper Building that the SoHo Alliance and other community groups fought so hard for years to prevent.  Comprised mostly of student dorms and containing 735,000 square feet of floor area, about one-third the bulk of the Empire State Building, the 300-foot structure is worse than anyone could imagine.  See below for yourself.

During the Bloomberg administration, NYU had the area rezoned to midtown standards —  but this awkward building would be an atrocity even in midtown.  Considering that the SoHo, NoHo, Greenwich Village and South Village Historic Districts – as well as several Individual Landmarks – encircle this all-glass modernist structure, NYU’s building is a further affront to our community.

Interestingly, notice how much of the bulk of the building is located on SoHo’s doorstep, on Houston Street at Mercer.  And see how the NYU drawings do not actually show the entire height of this monstrous tower.  We can thank Councilmember Margaret Chin for that abomination, when she inexplicably asked NYU to shift much of the original bulk of the building from Bleecker Street to Houston Street.

For a more detailed description, we refer you to the story in this week Villager. http://thevillager.com/2016/12/15/close-encounters-of-n-y-u-kind-massive-mercer-design-revealed/

Again asking you to be generous and contribute to our annual fund drive at  http://www.sohoalliance.org/join.html or PO Box 429, NY, NY 10012,

unnamed

Regards,
Sean Sweeney, Director
SoHo Alliance
212-353-8466
sohoalliance.org
PO Box 429
NY, NY 10012

You’re fired! Stars shun Trump Soho Hotel

You’re fired! Stars shun Trump Soho Hotel

BY DENNIS LYNCH | The Trump Soho Hotel is not the place to be anymore, at least for members of the New York paparazzi. Sightings — of both the “shooters” and their celebrity prey — have sharply decreased since Donald Trump rose to the top of the Republican Party and won this year’s presidential election, according to pavement-pounding pap.

“Almost nobody has stayed there for the last six months at least,” said the photographer, who hasn’t snapped pictures of any celebs there since around April. “Most A-listers now stay at the Greenwich Hotel owned by [Robert] De Niro, or the Bowery Hotel or the Mercer Hotel, some Uptown at the Ritz [Carlton] or London [NYC]. It’s possible some celebs are staying [at the Trump Soho], but not the usual numbers who were before.”

Paparazzi have not been seen hanging around the front of the Trump Soho Hotel for the past six months — because their favorite subject, celebrities, are reportedly no longer staying there. In the past, paparazzi could frequently be seen standing to either side of the front door waiting for stars — like singers Rihanna or Chris Brown or TV actors — to enter and exit. Photos by Jonathan Alpeyrie

Paparazzi have not been seen hanging around the front of the Trump Soho Hotel for the past six months — because their favorite subject, celebrities, are reportedly no longer staying there. In the past, paparazzi could frequently be seen standing to either side of the front door waiting for stars — like singers Rihanna or Chris Brown or TV actors — to enter and exit. Photos by Jonathan Alpeyrie

The photographer speculated that many entertainment stars are avoiding the Trump Soho because of its connection to the president-elect, or that a booker with connections to the many network TV morning shows and studios Uptown possibly left the organization at some point for unknown reasons, as well.

The decrease in sightings confirms the findings from some data scientists who track the hotel bookings of famous and common folk alike. Hipmunk, a San Francisco-based travel company, found that the share of Trump-branded bookings on its site fell around 58 percent in the first half of 2016 compared to the same period in 2015.

The data scientists over at the discovery-focused mobile app Foursquare also noted that foot traffic to Trump’s U.S. hotels, casinos and golf courses was down every month of 2016 compared to those same months in 2015, except in January and February, when they increased by 4 and 5 percent, respectively. Between March and July of this year, traffic was down between 14 and 17 percent compared to those same months in 2015.

Doormen at the Trump Soho Hotel, at Varick and Spring Sts., don’t have to keep paparazzi at bay much lately, since the stars aren’t staying there anymore.

Doormen at the Trump Soho Hotel, at Varick and Spring Sts., don’t have to keep paparazzi at bay much lately, since the stars aren’t staying there anymore.

Cleveland Cavaliers hoops superstar LeBron James and “several” of his teammates made headlines earlier this month when they decided to lay their heads elsewhere during a trip to the Big Apple for a game against the hometown Knicks. James was diplomatic about the choice, telling reporters during a shootaround at Madison Square Garden that it was just his “personal preference.”

“At the end of the day, I hope he’s one of the best presidents ever for all of our sake, my family, for all of us,” the three-time NBA champ said, according to CNN. “But [it’s] just not my personal preference. It would be the same if I went to a restaurant and decided to eat chicken and not steak.”

The Los Angeles Lakers organization also chose to stay elsewhere during a trip to face the Brooklyn Nets following the election. A source told the Los Angeles Times that the basketball team’s decision was motivated by security concerns surrounding the protests that cropped up at President-elect Trump’s many properties since his November victory, not politics.

The Trump Soho Hotel did not return requests for comment.

Landmarks Preservation Commission to Vote Tuesday on Designating Thompson-Sullivan Historic District

Please Attend LPC Hearing or Email the Commissioners to Vote “Yes”
After a ten-year struggle, the Landmarks Preservation Commission has listened to the pleas of our community and will hold a public hearing this Tuesday to decide whether to landmark the proposed Sullivan-Thompson Historic District, also known as the South Village, on SoHo’s western flank.
The district extends roughly from Houston Street to Watts Street and from Sixth Avenue to the east side of Thompson Street.  It will be the third and final stage of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation’s remarkable effort to landmark the entire South Village.
Besides fine architectural examples of both Italianate-style tenements and Federal-style homes and townhouses, the area has a rich cultural heritage, being the center of a large Italian-American immigrant community for over a century, as well as a world-renowned incubator for countless musicians, artists, poets and bohemians who have made a lasting impact on both American and world culture.
However, current zoning allows historic buildings to be demolished and replaced by 300-feet towers.  Developers such as Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner have recently bought properties in the proposed historic district, such as 156 Sullivan Street and the adjacent private parking lot on Houston Street.
HOW TO HELP:
  • Attend the Landmarks Preservation Commission hearing on Tuesday, November 29 starting at 9 am at the LPC Hearing Room in the Municipal Building, One Centre Street (at Chambers Street), 9th floor.  Bring photo ID.  Sign up to testify when you arrive.  Written testimony is limited to three minutes, but written testimony of any length can be submitted.  Use letter here as sample testimony. Or just come to show support.
  • If you cannot attend, please write the Landmarks Preservation Commission urging them to vote ‘Yes’ on the third phase of GVSHP’s proposed South Village Historic District as soon as possible.  Click here for a link and a Sample Letter, or simply write to comments@lpc.nyc.gov
    Regards,
    Sean Sweeney, Director
    SoHo Alliance

RALLY AGAINST NIKE STORE OPENING IN SOHO

It was suddenly organized when word leaked out that Nike is opening a massive 6-story retail complex this weekend at 529 Broadway (n.w. corner of Spring) contrary to the zoning law – and Mayor de Blasio’s Buildings Department is permitting it, despite opposition from our elected officials, SoHo activists and the community board.
When: Thursday, November 10 at 2pm
Where: NYC Department of Buildings, 280 Broadway at Chambers Street
Who: State Senator Daniel Squadron
          Assemblymember Deborah Glick
          Borough President Gale Brewer
          Councilmember Margaret Chin
          Community Board 2 Chair Tobi Bergman
          PLEASE TRY TO ATTEND
 
Regards,
Sean Sweeney, Director
SoHo Alliance
 
 RALLY AGAINST NIKE STORE OPENING IN SOHO
 
SoHo residents and community leaders will rally against the broken policies and decisions of the Department of Buildings that led to the granting of a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy to a giant, multi-floor Nike retail space in the middle of one of the most congested shopping districts in the city.
 
The Nike store is scheduled to open this week inside a new six-story retail complex at the site of a completely demolished building. Despite leaving intact only a small portion of the original party wall, DOB treated the Nike site as an “alteration” of an existing property rather than a new building – a decision that allowed a big-box store to open along a shopping corridor already saturated with retail space.
 
DOB’s decision – made over the opposition of our local elected official, SoHo activist and the local community board – puts the interests of a global corporation over the safety of pedestrians forced to navigate congested sidewalks and those looking to protect the historic character and zoning laws of one of the City’s most iconic neighborhoods.

Trump Admits SoHo Alliance Caused Him “Unnecessary Anxiety”

-Trump Admits SoHo Alliance Caused Him “Unnecessary Anxiety

-Poll Site Locator

-ACE Leaves SoHo
Trump Admits SoHo Alliance Caused Him “Unnecessary Anxiety
Love him or hate him, you must admit Donald Trump is not shy to admit that he loves a good fight and never gives up.
In his book, Never Give Upthe presidential candidate discusses his “Biggest Challenges”, devoting an entire chapter, I Love A Good Fight, to his battle with the SoHo Alliance when he attempted to build a new residential building here, the Trump SoHo.  
 
He explains how “zoning laws and local residents, together, created formidable obstacles”.   New residential buildings in SoHo require a zoning variance or special permit but hotels do not.  So Trump instead labeled his building a “condo hotel” in order to avoid this inconvenience.  Additionally, had he gone through the proper route, the building would not have been able to be built so tall.
 
Trump concedes, “Alliances made it clear that I would not be receiving a warm welcome.”  To say the least. 
 
He goes on, “The hits kept coming, and it felt like being in the eye of the hurricane…Every adversity served as fuel in what had become a fight of city-sized proportions.”   In his characteristic sanguinity, he declares, “I can guarantee you that my SoHo neighbors are going to love it – eventually.”
 
The concluding paragraph sums it up well, “SoHo caused perhaps a few more problems than expected…and we are big enough to handle it.  Be sure you have the same attitude – it will save you a lot of unnecessary anxiety.”
 
Due to several lawsuits and other legal roadblocks from the SoHo Alliance, Trump never got to operate his building as a residential condo.  In fact, it went into foreclosure when Trump failed to sell a single residential unit.  Who wants to buy into a lawsuit? 
 
It is now operating as a hotel, which is what the zoning laws permit and which is what we wanted him to do all along.  Too bad he didn’t listen to us.
 
 
Poll Site Locator
Despite our differences with Donald on zoning issues, the SoHo Alliance is non-partisan.  Whoever is your choice for president, be sure to vote on Tuesday.  Polls open 6am to 9pm.  If you are unsure of your voting site, you can find it here:  https://nyc.pollsitelocator.com/search
ACE Leaving SoHo
ACE, formerly known as the SoHo Partnership, has informed us that it is moving its operations out of SoHo.  
 
The organization started here in 1992 and helps to rehabilitate recovering homeless while sweeping our streets.  Unfortunately. it can no longer cut it financially here.  The new multinational businesses are reluctant to contribute to this charity and rising wages added to its burden.
 
As a result, last week ACE’s workers ceased cleaning our sidewalks.  Worse, the Sanitation Department is refusing to empty the special trash bins that ACE used, claiming it slowed their crews down.  So those bins have been removed and you may notice the remaining city trash bins overflow at times.
 
Another sad development is that ACE can no longer afford the rising commercial rents in SoHo and is locating its offices from Broadway to Long Island City.  The charity has been receiving city funding from the Transportation  Department to maintain several public plazas throughout the city, so at least its worthwhile mission will continue.
 
ACE served SoHo for a quarter of a century and it will be sorely missed.
 
Regards,
Sean Sweeney, Director
SoHo Alliance