Frustrated Neighbors Battle City, New Hotel Over Zoning Restrictions

“Meet the Nolitans,” beckons a new e-brochure from the not-yet-opened Nolitan Hotel, on the corner of Elizabeth and Kenmare Streets. Among the residents hanging out in this “authentic and endearing neighborhood:” fashion designers, restaurant proprietors and hair stylists. There’s one problem. As Curbed reported last summer, not all the neighbors are prepared to give the new “Nolitans” a warm welcome.

Six months after residents complained to the city that the hotel is possibly in violation of the “Little Italy Special District’s” height restrictions, the Department of Buildings is apparently still trying to, “determine compliance with applicable codes and zoning.”

Members of the Little Italy Neighbors Association say the zoning regulations are clear: a new building such as the “Nolitan” cannot rise above 8 stories or 85 feet. They say numerous photos taken over the past several months clearly show the hotel has a 9th level, plus some sort of structure on the roof that adds at least another three stories to the building.

Sante Scardillo of the Little Italy Neighbors Association told The Lo-Down he’s fed up with the city ignoring its own laws. He calls the DOB a “black hole” in which there’s “no accountability.”  Since June, the neighborhood association has bombarded the DOB, Councilmember Alan Gerson’s office and Community Board 2 with emails and photographic evidence of the “Nolitan’s” alleged transgressions. But as the year draws to a close, there’s no resolution.

A check of the DOB’s web site shows there’s a “partial stop work order” at 40 Kenmare Street, the “Nolitan’s” address. In multiple visits in the past week, inspectors reported they were “unable to gain access” to the work site.” This afternoon, there were no visible signs of work continuing in the building. The hotel’s web site says only that they anticipate an “early 2010″ opening.

In early June, the neighborhood association was told by a Department of Buildings official he’d “look into” the matter. On September 2nd, another DOB employee said the building’s owner had been sent an “intent to revoke” warning. On December 8th, they received yet another email, this time from Raymond Plumey, deputy borough commissioner, promising “we will have the DOB Construction Unit visit the site to ascertain construction practices and public safety.” Three weeks later, no word from the city about what’s been determined.

On top of their concerns that the hotel is “over-built,” the neighbors say they also remain worried about the potential for noise and general rowdiness emanating from a main-floor restaurant run by Jimmy Bradley (of the “Red Cat”), and a rooftop lounge. A few months ago, the community board signaled its support for liquor licenses, but asked the operators to agree to certain restrictions (closing early, no loud music, etc). According to the State Liquor Authority’s web site (not always accurate), those license approvals are still “pending.”

We have contacted the “Nolitan,” the DOB and the State Liquor Authority for clarification. Stay tuned.

  • michele

    FYI… from the Special Little Italy District zoning regulations
    2/3/77
    109-40
    BOWERY, CANAL, KENMARE STREET CORRIDOR (AREA C)
    109-411
    Height and setback regulations
    The maximum height of any new #building# or portion thereof shall
    not exceed 85 feet or eight #stories# above #curb level#,
    whichever is less, and unless authorized by the City Planning
    Commission pursuant to Section 109-514. The front building wall
    of any #development# or #enlargement# shall extend along the full
    length of its #front lot line# without setback.
    2/3/77
    109-412
    Lot coverage regulations
    For any #development# or #enlargement# within Area C, the maximum
    #lot coverage# shall be:
    Above
    Ground Floor
    (in percent)
    At Ground
    Floor Only
    (in percent)
    #Residential Use# 60 60
    #Commercial Use# 70 100
    109-331
    Building facades
    the exterior materials of the
    front wall shall be predominantly of masonry.
    –& —
    COMMUNITY BOARD #2 UNANIMOUSLY DENIED THE APPLICATIONS FOR A LIQOUR LICENSE
    ———–from the community activist who has been trying to get the DOB to do the right thing!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • john campo

    The reason that lot was vacant in the first place was because there was a building on that site that collapsed. It was all over the new a generation ago stating the lot unfit. What has change now that makes this a favorable site for a hotel – less restrictions in safety for possible dwellers on a short leash??? Lets stop the silliness, either obey the law as it stands on the books or put up a parking lot.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/1236200532s11086 ed

    According to Community Board 2’s minutes, the two licenses won their support IF certain conditions were met. The SLA asks the community boards to phrase their resolutions oddly:
    3. 153 Elizabeth St., Hotel, LLC & Blue Bell Rest. LLC, as Manager, 153 Elizabeth St a/k/a 40
    Kenmare St. (Kenmare and Broome), NYC
    Whereas, the applicant appeared before the committee; and,
    Whereas, this application is for an On Premise license for a Hotel, lobby lounge and 2nd floor private
    terrace collectively 470 s.f. (lobby lounge is 220 s.f., and 2nd floor private terrace is 250 s.f. of usable
    space) on the corner of Elizabeth and Kenmare with 4 table seats, no bar and a maximum legal capacity of
    10 persons for the lobby lounge; and a maximum capacity of 20 persons for the 2nd floor private terrace;
    and,
    Whereas, the applicant stated the hours of operation for the lobby lounge and 2nd floor meeting room are
    8:00 a.m. – 12:00 a.m. Monday – Thursday and 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 a.m. Friday and Saturday; there will not
    be a sidewalk café application and no backyard garden; music will be background only; and,
    Whereas, the applicant stated the closing hour for the 2nd floor private terrace is 11:00 p.m. seven days a
    week; and,
    Whereas, the applicant has agreed to never play music whatsoever at the 2nd floor private terrace; and,
    Whereas, the applicant has agreed to limit use of the 2nd floor private terrace to overnight, paid hotel
    guests at the adjoining suite; and,
    Whereas, the applicant has agreed to not have a bar or service bar of any kind on the 2nd floor private
    terrace; and,
    Whereas, the applicant has agreed to not seek a rooftop On Premise license for this application; and,
    Whereas, the applicant has agreed to abide by the regulations associated with all New York City
    Departments and safety organizations and will obtain all required certificates, permits and related
    documents; and,
    Whereas, a few members of the community appeared in opposition of the application, including a written
    statement by a member of the Little Italy Neighbors Association; citing quality life concerns; proliferation
    of bars and restaurants in this residential area; overcrowding and noise issues, particularly with the 2nd
    floor terrace; and expressed concerns that the height of the building exceeds 85 feet, the maximum
    allowed in the Little Italy special zoning district; and,
    Whereas, the applicant provided documentation from the NYC Buildings Department stating that the
    building does not exceed 85 feet in height; and,
    THEREFORE, BE RESOLVED that CB#2, Man. recommends denial to the proposed On Premise
    license for 153 Elizabeth St., Hotel, LLC & Blue Bell Rest. LLC, as Manager, 153 Elizabeth St a/k/a
    40 Kenmare St. unless those conditions agreed to by applicant relating to the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh,
    eighth and ninth “whereas” clauses are incorporated into the “Method of Operation” on the SLA On
    Premise license.
    Vote: Unanimous, with 34 Board members in favor.
    4. Blue Bell Rest., LLC 153 Elizabeth St. (Kenmare and Broome), NYC
    Whereas, the applicant appeared before the committee; and,
    Whereas, the application is for an On Premise license in a commercial building (hotel) on Elizabeth
    Street between Kenmare and Broome Streets for a 1,800 s.f. restaurant with 90 table seats, 1 bar with 10
    bar seats, and a maximum legal capacity of 110 persons pending the issuance of a valid Certificate of
    Occupancy; and,
    Whereas, the applicant stated the hours of operation are 7:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.,
    5:00 p.m. 12:00 a.m. Sunday – Thursday and 7:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m., 5:00 p.m.
    12:00 a.m. Friday and Saturday; there will be a sidewalk café application but no backyard garden; music
    is background only; and,
    Whereas, the applicant has provided a letter from Community Board 4, Manhattan in support; and,
    Whereas, the applicant has agreed to operate as a fully service restaurant only; and,
    Whereas, the applicant has agreed to not install French Doors or anything of its kind on the façade of this
    establishment; and,
    Whereas, the applicant has agreed to provide food and menu items available up until 1 hr prior to closing;
    and,
    Whereas, the applicant has agreed to abide by the regulations associated with all New York City
    Departments and safety organizations and will obtain all required certificates, permits and related
    documents prior to opening the establishment; and,
    Whereas, a few members of the community appeared in opposition of the application, including a written
    statement by a member of the Little Italy Neighbors Association; citing quality life concerns; proliferation
    of bars and restaurants in this residential area; overcrowding and noise issues; and expressed concerns that
    the height of the proposed hotel exceeds 85 feet, the maximum allowed in the Little Italy special zoning
    district; and,
    THEREFORE, BE RESOLVED that CB#2, Man. recommends denial of an On Premise license for
    Blue Bell Rest., LLC 153 Elizabeth St unless those conditions agreed to by applicant relating to the
    fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth “whereas” clauses above are incorporated into the “Method of
    Operation” on the SLA On Premise license.
    Vote: Unanimous, with 34 Board members in favor.

  • Jean Standish

    Obviously, as indicated by this article there are still huge problems at the DOB, which is an agency in desperate need of reform. After the crane accidents one would think there would have been a major overhaul of this agency, but they are still continuing with “business as usual.” Lack of enforcement is endangering our communities. Zoning enforcement should be their number one priority. Also, does CB2 not have a zoning committee to protect the community from these behemoths? The community board is supposed to protect neighborhoods from these outrages. By the way, outdoor terrace restaurants are anathema to the quality of life in a community. Just as the neighbors of the Cooper Square Hotel.

  • sally young

    I am a neighbor of the above mentioned Cooper Square Hotel, and I can personally attest to the outrages emanating from this type of structure/business that was dropped on my block, with the community and the community board(in this case CB3)opposed to their plans, and still it was built, and the problems are not resolved and remain ongoing regarding quality of life issues relative to the neighbors, many, and most are 20 years plus residents of the block.
    This is what happens when something like this, 40 Kenmare Street, is allowed to be built. The DOB is obviously looking the other way. Height restrictions are being ignored, overlooked…in other words, they are allowed to happen because no one “noticed” they were being violated, then they somehow get liquor licenses? Something like this just recently happened on Cooper Square-and its there, and last I’ve heard they’re not doing so well financially…even more reason to rent out their bar space, and their penthouse, and whatever they got that is sizable to rent out,(they got their licenses), to parties they “can’t” control, and limo traffic they didn’t know about, and guess who gets to deal with the outcome.
    This is not a lesson about the past, it is about the future, and the future/present is about another hotel that did what they wanted to, regardless of what the community, and the community board wanted… and DOB, etc.(you can fill in the blanks), allowed them to get away with it.
    It seems there’s not much to be done right now, but hope that, as John Campo states in a prior comment, that it was built on undesirable ground-in other words-it could sink. It might not be wise to put all our eggs in one basket…but in this case -this could be it.
    Sally Young

  • Jean

    Why is this developer being allowed to violate the zoning restrictions of the Special Little Italy District? It is an outrage that Community Board 2 and the Department of Buildings are doing NOTHING about the obvious violations by this developer? It is developers such as this that are destroying our communities with out-of-scale buildings.

  • Downtown Guy

    ” It is an outrage that Community Board 2 and the Department of Buildings are doing NOTHING about the obvious violations by this developer?”
    Jean, remember that the chair of the zoning committee of CB2 is David Reck, an “architect” who never say a building project that he never liked.
    I suggest that you call up CB2 (979-2271) and request that this be put on the agenda of the zoning committee for a review asap and then have their resolution forwarded to all the electeds, the DCP and DOB further drawing attention to this seeming violation of the Zoning Resolution.

  • RC

    The rule of law is an important part of what makes us a civilized society. No one is above the law. My understanding is that this particular zoning law came into being to help preserve the character of the neighborhood. Obviously this is important to those who care about preservation of particular neighborhoods in general, and to residents of this area in particular. Yet it appears that any developer who doesn’t care about preservation, or the character of a neighborhood, has the green light to do as they please. So, when and where do concerned citizens draw the line in the sand and say, “this nonsense stops right here, right now.”

  • MJC/ LINA

    What has changed? The Bloomberg fiefdom was and now once again is in power, that’s what. But Bloomberg is an equal opportunity undertaker– he gives to and receives from the fancies of two different lovers:
    Developers, and revenue schemes-at-any-cost

  • Michael

    When? NOW.

  • Michaele

    Corruption corruption corruption. It takes its toll.
    Is there no end to greed? Development that only takes into account the developers bank account is not good for the city and regulation has to take place here. The fact that the zoning is actually in place already and violated should be followed with a prison sentence for all involved.

  • anonymous

    the term ‘nolita’ is nothing more than a real estate construct.
    this area is LITTLE ITALY –which is why the zoning is titled the ‘special little italy district’.
    however – if you go to ‘the nolitan’ webpage, part of the description says that this hotel will “be your entree into a real n.y. neighborhood that is creative, cool, international and historic …….experience life as a nolitan”.
    sounds like a species from star wars !
    how beyond arrogant that this hotel company which seems to praise the neighborhood, in actuality totally disrespects the community by violating the local zoning laws and all those in proximity !!
    EVERYTHING ATTACHED TO THIS PARTICULAR DEVELOPMENT REALLY STINKS!!

  • Sam

    Considering the state of the economy, and how many of my friends are losing their jobs, their businesses, and all hope, I think we should welcome these Nolitans to the neighborhood. We’re going to need the protein, and I understand they’re fed on only the finest organic grains. They’ll look nice with apples in their mouths, on a platter.
    While I’m in a rational mood, just want to add a few comments that might stir up some thought, or at least a little trouble:
    First of all, you have to imagine Bloomberg being driven down the Bowery in his limo (Our Mayor, who art seldom in the subway). He looks from side to side and says, “This looks like Detroit, can’t we do something about all this blight? How about some development to make this neighborhood an economic engine, not a slum?” No, I don’t see it that way, I liked it the way it was, but I’m trying to put myself in Hizdishoner’s shoes. In other words, in addition to the corruption at the DOB, and Bloomies desire to tear down old New York as fast as possible and build new infrastructure to revitalize the are.
    Oh, did I mention corruption? At the DOB, I’d think for sure, though never underestimate the ability of our officials to do the wrong thing out of neglect, incompetence, and a complete lack of qualifications for their jobs.
    The tragedy of the Bowery is that it needed to be designated a special cultural district 35 years ago, before we started to lose it building by building. The only alternative would have been for some billionaire angel to fall in love with the grit of the place, buy up parcels, and save as much as possible. The evidence suggests that it is now too late.
    For me, the Bowery is history and culture. No, not the winos or for that matter the sailors that used to cruise there to get drunk and take in a cheap show. It’s the older Bowery that I care about, with its great theater districts in the 19th century, and the building where our country’s first great songwriter, Stephen Foster, spent his last days. And the homes of innumerable major figures in the beatnik and other later cultural movements, artists’ lofts, Sammy’s Bowery Follies where Weegee took those great photos, etc., etc., etc. But I don’t know how many people care about most of this stuff anymore. Cultural tourism could have been the key to saving the neighborhood from gentrification. But with the loss of CBGB’s, not to mention other local musical and theatrical institutions, I think that idea became unlikely.
    Demographics account for a lot of the trouble. Upper Little Italy and the Bowery and Lower East Side belong largely to the young now. Where they get all that money I don’t know, but they’re looking only for youth hangouts, places to pick up a boy or girl and feel young and hip. Look what’s happening with the restaurant scene. A stalwart of the neighborhood like The Kitchen Club can’t stay in business, but there are innumerable new youth hangs. Kitchen Club situation is the ultimate irony — the place was run by a genuine bohemian character, but she doesn’t fit the model of what’s currently “hip” (e.g., commercial, not to mention bogus) so out it goes.
    But, as I said above, all is not lost. The bad guys have the money, and the guns, but we have the numbers. Eat the rich! I’ll start with the braised head of Nolitan, au jus.