City’s Own Data Contradicts Their Claims on Trump SoHo’s Legality

Six and a half years ago, a pitched battle began against the scheme to construct a 454 ft. tall behemoth at 246 Spring Street which came to be known as the “Trump SoHo Condo-Hotel.”  GVSHP and many neighbors and community groups opposed having this 46-story monument to ego and self-promotion in their midst, but unfortunately the zoning for this area — Hudson Square — actually allowed buildings of this size (and contained no requirements for good taste).  Read more background HERE.

What the zoning did, however,  absolutely prohibit were residential uses or residential hotels.  And with this it seemed we had Trump and his business partners — to build the “condo-hotel” they wanted, they would need a zoning change, which would require a public approval process, which could have blocked the project entirely, or allowed changes to the size, height, or other elements.

Much to our surprise, in spite of ample evidence that the planned development would be residential in nature, or at least akin to a residential hotel, the City, and City Council Speaker Quinn and Borough President Stringer, took the position that the planned development was legal as long as they pledged that the condo-owners would only stay in the units a certain number of days per year.  We and others contended this made the condo development no less “residential” under the zoning rules, and therefore no less illegal.  In spite of lawsuits from neighbors and buyers, financial troubles, discovery of an abolitionist church burial ground on the site and a deadly construction accident, the plan went ahead and was built, based upon the City and elected officials’ insistence that it was NOT in fact a residential use, and therefore legal under the zoning.

Imagine our  surprise therefore when we discovered this in the City’s own data about the site and surrounding area:

This map, from the City’s 2010 Community Profile of Community Board #2, Manhattan, shows land uses for every lot in the neighborhood as defined by the City.

The Trump SoHo (circled), covers the western half of the block bounded Varick and Sixth Avenue, Spring and Dominick Streets.

As you can see, the site is listed in the land use key under “residential land uses” as a “mixed residential and commercial building” (the Trump SoHo does have restaurants, bars, and other “commercial uses” inside).

To be clear, the current zoning (and the zoning which existed at the time the building was constructed, which we and many others argued should have prohibited its construction) prohibits ANY kind of new residential uses (all the other buildings in this zoning district coded as some sort of residential use are “grandfathered,” i.e. the residential use pre-dates the adoption of the current zoning in 1961, and thus was allowed to continue).

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.  The Community profile is issued by the Department of City Planning, the same city agency which regulates New York City zoning and which issued the interpretation that the Trump SoHo was legal.  And lest you think this map was a fluke which somehow slipped through the cracks, think again here as well — this cartographic categorization of the Trump SoHo as a residential development has been used over and over again by the Department of City Planning in environmental reviews, recently for a proposed new residential development at 180 Sixth Avenue and for the proposed Hudson Square rezoning.


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avatar Andrew Berman has been the Executive Director of GVSHP since 2002.