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Zoning Update
By Bruce Silberblatt

Trump Showdown

The elegant landmark Appellate Division Court House on Madison Square was the scene of the latest battle in the ongoing war against the Trump World Tower.

In the afternoon of March 23, 2000, final oral arguments were offered by the Coalition for Responsible Development and its opponents, the City of New York, Daewoo, and Trump World Tower 845 United Nations Plaza Corporation. A four-justice panel - Sullivan (presiding), Mazarelli, Saxe, and Nardelli - listened and questioned attorneys for a full hour.

Peter Zimrod is co-counsel to Coalition attorney Donald Elliot. He urged the justices not to be swayed by arguments propounded by the Trump forces that the city Zoning Code is a complex document created by architects and urban planners that is so arcane and convoluted and so far beyond the comprehension of other mere mortals, that it can only be interpreted by those same experts who created it. The lower court - Judge Figueroa - had ruled "let the 'experts' decide." Zimrod rebutted that premise eloquently: "Not so! Zoning is for the people of New York!"

The applicable provisions, he continued, are in any case not that difficult after all. Rather, they are forthright, simple and, once followed, lead to the inescapable conclusion that Trump, having elected to build under residential provisions, had to fully, not partially, comply with them. These provisions mandate a comparatively low tower on a base, not the sheer 90-story monolith now rearing itself above all else in Turtle Bay.

Trump lawyers pointed out that the legislative history and preparations that led to the 1994 tower on base zoning changes did not cover the C5-2 district in which Trump World Tower is sited. It is this history, they opined, that reveals what the zoning intends. It, not the Code, should govern.

Not so, countered Zimrod. It is solely the statute itself - the Zoning Code - that controls. Anything else that came before is irrelevant, particularly when the applicable code sections are as crystal clear as these.

The Trump forces called the Court's attention to the fact that Trump World Tower construction is advanced, enormous sums have been invested, and about 450 construction workers are currently engaged there. In reply, one of the justices mentioned "96th Street," referring to an Appellate Division case a few years ago where the builder had to demolish 13 illegal floors. Zimrod pointed out that Trump had proceeded this far at his own risk, and indeed, even the Board of Standards and Appeals a year ago had pointed out that hazard to the developer.

Unlike lower court judge Figueroa, this panel put many questions to both sides and inferred, if the law so indicated, that they may overrule or ignore the concept of "let the 'experts' decide," and make their determination based solely upon the zoning itself.

Needless to say, the panel did not give any clue as to which way it will rule. We will have to wait for what we hope will be an expedited ruling supporting our community and the Coalition.

Meanwhile the Trump World Tower continues its skyward climb - now up some 50 construction floors.


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The Turtle Bay Association is a nonprofit (501c3) community organization.

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