The city yesterday ordered developer Donald Trump to stop work on the SoHo lot where he plans to build a 45-story condo hotel after contractors uncovered human remains believed to be more than a century old.
Since the 1960s, the underdeveloped stretch along Varick Street between Spring and Dominick streets has been the site of a fallow parking lot. Demolition and excavation work began recently on the site to make room for the 413-unit project, a collaboration between Mr. Trump and Bayrock Development, the Sapir Organization, and Zar Realty Management. They have been awaiting permits from the city that would allow above-ground construction to begin.
A local bar owner who opposes the project, Rip Hayman, said the site was once known to contain the largest African Methodist Episcopal church in the city. It was attacked during the Civil War-era draft riots, he said.
"The least Trump should do for the community is make a memorial to the difficult history on our block," Mr. Hayman said yesterday in an e-mail message.
An archeologist hired by the developers will be onsite today, a spokesman for the project, Julius Schwarz, said. He said the developers' counsel questioned the authority of the city's Department of Buildings to issue a stop-work order, but that they would comply.
"We will be discussing the matter with them in the morning," Mr. Schwarz said.
The remains, he said, appear to be confined to the northeast corner of the site, where a church stood until the 1960s.
Police took custody of the bones on Monday afternoon after being alerted by construction workers. Police officials said yesterday the bones appear to be more than 100 years old. The existence of bones was first reported yesterday on the Web site of the magazine the Real Deal.
Some neighbors have attacked the SoHo project, saying the glass and steel building would tower over the surrounding low-rise neighborhood. Local elected officials and preservationists have criticized the developers for what they say appear to be efforts to sidestep local zoning laws that prohibit residential development in a manufacturing zone. Supporters say the project will enliven a dark stretch of West SoHo where cars line up to drive through the Holland Tunnel.
A spokeswoman for the Landmarks Preservation Commission said the agency has no jurisdiction over a privately owned site, but it recommended to the developers that they retain an archeologist and attempt to identify and consult with relatives of the deceased about the remains.
The director of the SoHo Alliance, Sean Sweeney, said the remains could have been affiliated with a late 19th century Baptist Church that burned down in a mysterious fire in the 1960s.
"It could have been mafia guys," Mr. Sweeney said. "There were a lot of social clubs around there."
A spokeswoman for the city's Department of Buildings, Jennifer Givner, said the agency would work with the Landmarks Commission and the developers to undertake further research and evaluation and determine the best course of action.
In Lower Manhattan in 1991, the federal government stopped work on its $276 million, 34-story federal office tower at Broadway near Duane Street after finding the remains of hundreds of buried African-Americans from the 17th and 18th centuries. Plans were eventually altered, and much of the African Burial Ground is now preserved and will be home to a large memorial.
The executive director of the Greenwich Village Society of Historical Preservation, Andrew Berman, said that after the discovery of remains, the developers should rename the project, "Trump Condo Hotel and Mausoleum."
"I have a sense these bodies must have been turning in their graves since the project was announced," Mr. Berman said.