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
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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Turtle Bay Association is a nonprofit (501c3) community
224 East 47th Street, New York City 10017
Fax (212) 751-4941