–Crucial Community Board Hearing on Wednesday
Multinational retailer Zara, located in the former Old Navy space since 2015, has applied for a Special Permit from the City Planning Commission to operate a 42,000 square-foot megastore at 503 Broadway, extending to 82 Mercer Street. Retail stores over 10,000 square feet in SoHo/NoHo are not permitted without this Special Permit.
The application seeks to remove a Buildings Department violation Zara received for operating its oversized store illegally for the past four years.
Background:Heng Sang Realty Corporation purchased the building in 1982 and the certificate of occupancy for the entire building allowed only “Factory Use”.
However, from 1998 until 2015, Heng Sang leased the 26,000 square-feet ground-floor space to Old Navy, creating an illegal oversized retail operation, which, oddly, was never issued a violation by the city.
Despite the lack of the oversized-retail Special Permit for Old Navy, in 2001 the Building Department issued a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy, which listed the entire ground-floor space, 26,000 square feet, as a “Large Retail” Use Group.
How Hang Seng Realty obtained this change from Factory Use to Large Retail Use from the Buildings Department without first receiving a Special Permit from the City Planning Commission remains a mystery, although one can only imagine.
In 2015, the building’s ownership split into condos and Heng Sang sold the retail space to Zara.
After Zara took ownership, it illegally extended its retail operation to the second floor, whose certificate of occupancy still had a “Factory Use” requirement.
In 2017 and 2018, after complaints from the Broadway Residents Coalition, Zara received violations from the Buildings Department for operating an oversized store in violation of our zoning laws.
However, it took until 2019 for Zara to apply for the Special Permit – only after being busted by Buildings and after three years of its illegal operation.
Zara has been a nightmare for its neighbors, drawing not only throngs of shoppers but also bringing in huge tractor-trailers that unload merchandise well past midnight, ruining the sleep and quality of life of nearby residents.
Incidentally, Zara is owned by Armancia Ortega, who, at $70 billion, is the sixth richest person on the planet. So this is not some small inexperienced retailer who made an error, but a willful effort to undermine our zoning.
One reason for the transition of SoHo from a small retail and boutique destination to a shopping mall is directly due to the illegal behavior of both Heng Sang and Zara. Now they want our blessing to legitimize their decades-long disregard for the SoHo community and our city’s laws.
Zara will appear before the community board on Wednesday evening to present its application.
Zara gets this 42,000 square-feet Special Permit, you can be certain
that other oversized operators will flood our community, further
deteriorating our quality of life with more crowds, traffic, congestion,
trash and late-night deliveries.
attend this crucial community board meeting to voice your opposition to
this legitimization of illegality and, more importantly, to salvage
what we have left of reasonably sized retail operations in SoHo.
If you cannot attend, email your thoughts to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we shall forward it to the community board.
WHEN: Wednesday, September 11, 6:30 pmWHERE: Grace Church School, 86 Fourth Avenue (between East 10th & East 11th Streets)
SoHo AlliancePO Box 429New York, NY email@example.com