1250 Broadway, 27th Floor New York, NY 10001


SoHo Alliance

A Volunteer Community Organization

PO Box 429 Prince Street Station

phone/fax: 212.353.8466

New York, NY 10012



July 26, 2009



CONTACT: Sean Sweeney @ 212-353-8466, or info@sohoalliance.org


Mondrian Hotel Withdraws Liquor License Request in Wake of Community Opposition


In a striking victory for community empowerment and a blow to an arrogant developer, at an SLA liquor-license hearing for their new hotel, The Mondrian, being built between Lafayette and Crosby Streets just north of Howard Street in SoHo, the Morgans Hotel Group suddenly, surprisingly and dramatically withdrew their request for an outdoor eating-and-drinking area that would seat at least 150 people with scores more standing, mingling, and - no doubt - screaming until well past 1:00 a.m. in the morning.  For months, Morgans insisted it could not make a profit without this outdoor party area.


The hotel at 25 stories will be the tallest in core SoHo* (see sidebar at the bottom) 


This part of SoHo, noted for its quiet and repose at night, is one of the few areas locally that permits developers to build behind the building line, thus creating 'plazas' at the front (Lafayette) and rear (Crosby) of the hotel.  These plazas enabled the Mondrian to build such an inappropriately tall building by transposing the un-built area in the plaza to the top of the hotel.  The front plaza is to be the main entrance to the hotel.  The rear was to contain this outdoor party space, which is just across narrow Crosby Street from people's windows.


Not satisfied at the profits generated from having such spectacular views, the developer decided to double-dip, exploiting the outdoor Crosby space for late-night entertainment use. The developer also wanted an outdoor second-floor patio lounge on the Crosby side, as well as a rooftop restaurant, in addition to a 400-seat restaurant open till 4:00 a.m.  What were they thinking?  Did they really think they were going to be allowed to destroy this part of SoHo?


Despite several meetings this spring coordinated by the SoHo Alliance between the developer and the local community in which the community reasonably requested the developer to eliminate the rear courtyard and the exterior second-story patio on Crosby Street in order not to inflict upon the Crosby neighbors what the Thom, the Cooper Square or the Gansevoort had done to others, the developers stubbornly insisted on retaining the courtyard.


This adamant refusal to heed the wishes of the community was all the more grating considering that the community did not object to the roof-top component or the huge 400-seat restaurant open to 4:00 a.m., which would make it the largest restaurant downtown and one of the largest in the city.


This refusal to compromise was a call to arms to the SoHo community against the unbridled greed and uncaring arrogance of the developers.


Although the SLA Committee of CB2 recommended an 11:00 p.m. closing time for the Crosby outdoor area instead of the proposed 1:00 a.m., this pusillanimous compromise did not satisfy the SoHo Alliance nor the residents. 


So, at the Full Community Board meeting, SoHo Alliance director Sean Sweeney was able to convince the board to deny entirely the two outdoor spaces slated for Crosby Street. 


"People's quality-of-life, their sleep, their families' well-being, as well as property values and concomitant real-estate taxes are not going to be compromised to give these greedy developers rapacious profits,' Sweeney railed.  The Board agreed and overturned the Committee's compromise recommendation of an 11:00 p.m. closing, and in a 35-1 vote overwhelmingly recommended denial of the two outdoor spaces entirely. 


When the Morgans Group, chastened and humbled, came before the SLA seeking its liquor license, it surprised the SoHo Alliance lawyer and the dozens of community residents present when it announced that it was withdrawing its application for the Crosby courtyard and patio.


"Mondrian may have thought that SoHo activists have just fallen off the pumpkin truck.  But we are seasoned organizers who will fight tooth and nail to prevent SoHo from becoming a late-night playground.  We have learned from the misery these party hotels have caused elsewhere downtown, and we are determined that it will never - ever - happen in SoHo," Sweeney said.


*(Sidebar: Trump SoHo at 45 stories on Varick/Spring would be taller than the Mondrian, but it is not in core SoHo.


Incidentally, at a liquor license hearing in May, the SoHo Alliance and Community Board #2 did not object to the license application for Trump SoHo and it is expected to be approved, although it had seating for hundreds of people and would be open till 4:00 a.m.


Regarding Trump SoHo, SoHo Alliance director Sean Sweeney said, "We are in litigation with Trump SoHo on the zoning issue.  The project is months behind schedule, little work is being done, not one unit has sold in 18 months, and the Trump name is in disrepute,  and the developer, Bayrock/Sapir is reported to be near bankruptcy.  For the Alliance to fight them on a liquor license would be like torturing a small animal. We have caused them enough grief already".)


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