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.