There was a girl knocking on my hotel room door all night. Finally I let her out.”
— Henny Youngman
Apparently, the lack of tourists and grounded flights from Europe are finally starting to have an effect. SoHo hotels are feeling the pinch. The Trump SoHo project which was initially envisioned as a condo, a condo-hotel, and then, after foreclosure and bankruptcy it morphed into The Dominick. However, the 47 story hotel has been vacant since last spring. The door is boarded up and the only sign of life is a small enclosed area outside built to accept diners for a restaurant trying to survive. No appearances have occurred there either.
The James Hotel, built upon the old Moondance Diner site has been vacant almost as long, although it has recently changed ownership. Graffiti covers most of it and there’s no sign of life. SoHo 54, another hotel on Watts Street, is apparently yet another magnet for graffiti — but certainly not tourists or any clientele.
But, the more established property is The SoHo Grand, a hotel on West Broadway near Canal, owned by Leonard Stern’s Hartz Mountain Industries. It’s also the owner of the old Tribeca Grand, now called The Roxy. According to The Real Deal, Stern basically wants to hand over the keys and walk away from money-losing properties which have been severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. My own, less-than scientific assessment of their money woes, has been confirmed by doormen who have told me that the SoHo Grand has been running at about thirty percent occupancy.
In addition to the hotel situation, the condos and rentals situation have become dicey. The building recently completed at 111 Varick had profusely advertised affordable housing but those units seem to be phantoms that disappeared once the building permit was issued. i’ve called their rental office and was referred to HPD, who also knows nothing. Neither Community Board #2 nor HPD (where the info purportedly lies), seem to have any information on any affordable housing apartments. And, the Renzo Piano building at Broome and Varick is also cipher. That location, originally approved for an eight story rental, which then became a hotel site, then morphed into TWO 30 story towers. How’s that for working the Community Board and using the right lobbyist to get around height and use limitations? So, I stopped in, after having watched it be completed after two years and was told that the condos were seventy percent sold. That was a few months ago. So, I stopped in again — and was told that almost fifty percent are sold almost two months later. So, what does that tell you? Shades of Ivanka and Don Jr. with Trump SoHo? I suspect sales are not going so well.
I’ve got my own problems, of course, I can’t even get heat in a building from 1920 where the landlord has spent the last 20 years evicting all of the rent-stabilized tenants — utilizing the courts and high-priced lawyers to drive the statutory tenants from their homes. The landlord operates like a criminal enterprise run by dentists — but good luck getting anyone to investigate. Law enforcement in this town is beholden to the real estate industry and the courts and judges themselves have deep pockets. Judges are supposedly community oriented but, my landlord’s lawyers never met a judge they couldn’t convince. Judge Braun of Manhattan Supreme Court let my own landlord drive a holdover case for seven years until the legal fees were $500,000. All to remain in a rent-stabilized apartment and not be ejected? Sounds like a book to me. Bizarre. Abuse and harassment laws should require that legal fees be assumed by landlords — if tenants continue to be obligated to pay rent while they’re being sued. That’s the trick, you see. Use the courts to require rent AND legal fees to be paid at the same time. It always results in the tenant taking a small settlement to walk away. It’s eviction in another form.
Maybe the answer is that SoHo is the ideal location for the homeless. The re-zoning that’s being planned certainly isn’t to help the middle-class tenants or homeless or those who need affordable housing. If that were the case politicians would do something about now! Landlords and developers have been shitting on us for decades and it looks like it took a pandemic for rents to start dropping and at least delay pushing people out of their homes for more condos and and more high-priced apartments. Current claims about affordable housing being provided by landlords or developers is just bullshit.. All of the City agencies are either conned or crooked and fall for the same old tired promises that never pan out. So, maybe we should just give some space in the empty hotels to homeless people — before WE are going to need those spaces once the evictions and moratorium on foreclosures end and the courts reopen. We could all be next.