Thursday, April 05, 2007

Beyond Trump

While the City Council fiddles, Trump is preparing to build on Spring and Varick Street. And, unless Quinn takes a stand against this illegal development - purporting to be condos in the guise of a hotel - we will soon have a 45 story monstrosity sitting right here in Hudson Square.

The ramifications go far beyond Trump SoHo and call into question the effectiveness of our Speaker whose City Council seat oversees this very neighborhood.

Not well publicized but also considerable in size is the 17 story hotel being constructed at this very moment on Watts Street - two blocks from Trump SoHo. Two small buildings (a one story manufacturing building and a 3 story brownstone) were razed for this 17 story monster. And, there appear to be more of these to come. Although, this has not been widely publicized.

Neighbors on Watts Street have begun to take notice of the fact that there have been some unusual, unsolicited offers for their properties. The 100 Varick Street parcel on Watts and Varick Streets and its mirror on Broome and Varick Streets are a single site which was approved a year ago by the Community Board -- but ground has not broken on the proposed 8 story rental building. That developer has also recently picked up a brownstone next to him - yet he still hasn't started building. Meanwhile, several building owners on Watts Street have been hearing some very large offers for the mid-block contiguous parcels. Could The Door also be next in line?

The Tunnel Garage is gone, Moondance Diner will be consigned to condo history, the Film Forum is long gone from Watts Street, and Trinity will soon give Hudson Square another 21 story office building at Varick/Grand/Canal/Sullivan Streets. Add to that mix the fact that Ramer & Saperstein, a couple of ex-dentists cum real estate manipulators are attempting to litigate the rent stabilized tenants out of 80 Varick Street (corner of Watts) in contemplation of a "better" use. Rumors of D.O.B. and HPD payoffs are rife as a result of their multi-year flouting of nearly every rule in the book.
Add these all up and you have almost an entire residential neighborhood facing extinction, except for the Swells.

So, is Mr. Trump now looking to pick up another block for Ivanka's Monopoly game? Or, is this another Trump-like creature from the black lagoon of developers. No one is talking - which is usually the case when a parcel is being assembled.

But, the neighbors think something's up. When you get offers ranging from $6 to $12 million, as they have, for individual, aging, 3 to 4 story brownstones with little more than a view of the Holland Tunnel and the smell of diesel smoke--- and several owners at once are being wooed - you have seriously deep pockets at work.

What we have here is the ongoing consequences of a zoning policy that is, well, basically, non-existent. It is bereft of intelligence. Vision, is not usually the hallmark of a politician unless he or she is gifted. Hindsight is their forte. Blindness, is even more common. Then, of course, there's graft.

SoHo (west of West Broadway) and Hudson Square needs rezoning - contextual rezoning -- and we need a moratorium on development in this area until the residents of downtown can have an effective dialog with City Planning and the Electeds. One that is not condescending or stacked against the residents.

And, then pass some new zoning regulations. Fast.

The Stringer Community Boards

Borough President Scott Stringer campaigned and won election based upon his view of reforming the Community Boards. He took his time and gradually pieced together a plan that entailed reviewing existing board members, and adding new people while dropping others. Many activists and community people were disappointed in the slow progress being made in eliminating self-interest and the broadening of community involvement in this elemental form of democracy. As imperfect as the Community Boards are, they do provide a forum for local issues to be heard.

After two years of planning, Stringer has managed to accomplish a great deal and appears to have brought a better balance to the Community Boards.

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