City To Approve Trump Condo-Hotel: Closed-Door Decision Threatens to Undo Zoning Protections
Breaking News: GVSHP was shocked to learn today that the City has agreed to approve permits for a 45-story condo-hotel to be built by Donald Trump and his development partners. GVSHP led a coalition of neighborhood and business groups and elected officials from across the city who urged the Mayor NOT to approve this condo-hotel because they believed, like us, that such a condo-hotel violates zoning rules for manufacturing zones, and to allow this development would undo zoning protections across the City (CLICK HERE for letters from supporters). Anticipating the possibility of such a decision, GVSHP wrote the City earlier in the week urging them again not to issue permits for this development (CLICK HERE for letter).
GVSHP condemns this action as a closed-door accommodation to Donald Trump which will undo zoning protections for many neighborhoods, especially those in Lower Manhattan and on the West Side where manufacturing zoning is supposed to prohibit such development. With this decision, the City has granted Trump what amounts to a change in zoning regulations which will not only allow him to develop high-rise condo-hotels in manufacturing districts where they were supposed to be prohibited, but will allow ANY DEVELOPER TO DO THE SAME. This decision was made without any of the public hearings, public votes, or environmental reviews which such a decision should require; instead, the City simply opted to interpret the zoning regulations to say that the Trump condo-hotel is a “transient hotel” and not a residence or a residential hotel, the equivalent of shoving a 45-story square peg into a round hole.
The City appears to be justifying its position in two ways:
* 1) Saying that the zoning code as written (before the advent of condo-hotels) does not specifically restrict condo-hotels from being built in areas where residences and residential hotels are prohibited, and
* 2) Saying that a “restrictive declaration” it is negotiating with the developer to limit how Trump’s condo-hotel rooms can be used will “ensure” that the development functions like a transient or traditional hotel, which is allowed in a manufacturing zone
We disagree strongly with both assertions. Many zoning and planning experts (along with countless neighborhood and business groups) have agreed with our position that the zoning text as written clearly did not imagine allowing what Trump is planning in manufacturing zones. A restrictive declaration is of questionable efficacy and enforceability, and the terms of the restrictive declaration we understand the City is currently considering does not contain many of the most critical elements that would distinguish a transient hotel from a residence or residential hotel. For instance, we understand that the City would allow condo-hotel unit owners to take their units off market for significant periods of time so that they could reside in their units, rather than renting them out to overnight guests. This would seem to blatantly contradict the common sense definition of a transient hotel, as well as the current legal definition, which says that rooms are “rented on a daily basis” and are used “primarily for transient occupancy.”
The City has had ample opportunity to change the zoning text over that period of time if they did not believe that the current language in the text afforded the protections it was intended and understood to. Condo-hotels have existed in non-manufacturing zones (where they are legal) in New York City for over eight years. That is why GVSHP has consistently urged the City if it DOES NOT believe that the current text is clear enough in prohibiting condo-hotels in manufacturing zones where they do not belong to CHANGE THE ZONING TEXT TO DO SO. The City has thus far made no such commitments. We will continue to push them on this point; without the City enforcing such restrictions, it is quite likely we will see more such high-rise vacation homes for the jet-set proliferating under the guise of transient hotels in other similar manufacturing zones such, as SoHo, NoHo, the Meatpacking District, the Far West Village south of Barrow Street, and parts of West Chelsea, the Flatiron District, the Garment Center, western Hell’s Kitchen, Tribeca, and Brooklyn and Queens.
GVSHP has also asked the City to consider zoning changes for the manufacturing zones west of Sixth Avenue and south of Barrow Street to prevent this type of high-rise from being built in the future (see zones with the prefix “M” on map HERE). While GVSHP continues to argue that “condo-hotels” should not be allowed in this area, the City has made clear that the current zoning does allow 45-story buildings (the M1-5 zone, north of Houston Street, allows smaller buildings). This magnitude of development is ludicrous for an area with buildings of no more than 15 or so stories, with a neighborhood of buildings only 6 stories or less just a block away. Whether or not they are condo-hotels, we do not believe that development of this size should be allowed in this area AT ALL.
The Trump condo-hotel, if built, would be the tallest building between Midtown and the Financial District.
GVSHP will provide further information as it becomes available.