Community Offers Alternative Plans for South Street Seaport

Local residents filled the room at Pace University for a Community Board 1 forum on development plans at the South Street Seaport. (Photo by Carl Glassman via Tribeca Trib)

Local residents filled the room at Pace University for a Community Board 1 forum on development plans at the South Street Seaport. (Photo by Carl Glassman via Tribeca Trib)

In the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge in lower Manhattan, community opposition appears to be building to the proposed plan by Hughes Corp. to build a 600 foot-high tower as part of its South Street Seaport redevelopment plan. More than 200 people attended a recent Community Board 1 meeting, and numerous residents spoke up in opposition to the plan, reports Aline Reynolds of the Tribeca Trib.

Real estate developer Hughes Corp. first put forward its plans in November. Local residents appear not to have embraced the project in the two months they’ve had to mull things over.

Michael Sosin, a 24-year-old resident of the residential complex Southbridge Towers, near the Seaport, said that erecting “modern” buildings in the neighborhood would be a “blight” on its historic character.

“I have grown up here, gone to school in this area, and plan to live here a very long time,” he told the audience. “I want my neighborhood to retain the charm and essence that makes this area unique, and keep the peaceful atmosphere that makes the Seaport a great place to live.”

A rendering of the 600-foot tower, which have local residents less than thrilled. (Image from SHoP Architects via Tribeca Trib)

A rendering of the 600-foot tower, which has local residents less than thrilled. (Image from SHoP Architects via Tribeca Trib)

Another resident referred to the planned tower as “an obscenity.”

The developer’s plans include installing a food market on the site of the old Fulton First Market, rebuilding piers and constructing a new marina at the Seaport. The tower, executives say, would help pay for the entire project.

Andy Breslau, senior vice president of the Downtown Alliance, which has yet to endorse or oppose the plan, suggested that attendees at the community meeting should be mindful of the economic realities.

“The cost of rebuilding the infrastructure around the Seaport is simply one the city will not undertake,” he said. “It is incumbent on all of us to work creatively and constructively with Howard Hughes to bring about the kind of investment and the kind of visionary project that best benefits both New York’s interests and the company’s bottom line.”

But many community members have other ideas for how best to proceed, and they offered up suggestions.

Michael Kramer, a lead member of Save Our Seaport, a group opposed to the Hughes Corp.’s plan, suggested preserving the New Market Building for use by the South Street Seaport Museum—and turning the Tin Building into a public school or a community center. Marco Pasanella, chair of the Old Seaport Alliance—a group formed after Sandy to promote the area’s businesses—suggested that the developer transform the Seaport into a “food capital,” featuring a “large-scale” food market, a culinary school and Food Network events. Pasanella also suggested that Seaport Museum boats might be converted into “floating hotels,” with the revenue dedicated to their preservation.

Other opponents argued for a delay in the city’s approval process until an alternate plan can be developed.

Robert LaValva, founder of the New Amsterdam Market who also opposes the Hughes Corp. plan, has joined architect Gina Pollara to launch a campaign called “JustPressPause.org.” The pair want to stop the upcoming city approval process until a grassroots “master plan” is developed.

That plan, LaValva said, must consider the Seaport and its structures as public assets.

“Just what that public purpose will be remains to be determined, but one thing is certain,” he said, “it cannot, and will not be determined behind closed doors, and without all stakeholders involved.”

Hughes Corp. executive Chris Curry told community board members that the company would take the community’s views into consideration.

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  1. Pingback: Seaport Tower Plans Put on Hold | Voices of NY

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