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South Street Seaport Fire Sparked by Electrical Wiring, FDNY Says

By Julie Shapiro | July 16, 2012 12:50pm
Smoke at the South Street Seaport July 14, 2012.
Smoke at the South Street Seaport July 14, 2012.
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DNAinfo/Jared Rosen

SOUTH STREET SEAPORT — The massive blaze at the South Street Seaport Saturday afternoon started when electrical wiring caught fire beneath Pier 17, fire officials said.

The wires, which serve the pier's lighting and vending machines, sparked flames that quickly spread to the pier's wooden supports, sending up black plumes of smoke and forcing the evacuation of the busy pier, the FDNY and witnesses said.

No one was hurt in the three-alarm fire, which drew 145 firefighters to the South Street Seaport about 4 p.m. Saturday and disrupted the 4Knots music festival.

The city determined that the pier was still structurally sound and allowed people back onto it Saturday evening, said Alex Howe, a spokesman for The Howard Hughes Corporation, which owns the Pier 17 mall.

The southeast corner of the pier remained closed off on Monday, but the rest of the pier, including the mall, is open for business, Howe said.

Howard Hughes is still moving forward with plans announced earlier this year to gut the 1980s mall and replace it with a new all-glass shopping center filled with high-end stores and restaurants, with a rooftop lawn and concert venue overlooking the harbor, Howe said.

"[The fire] won't affect the redevelopment plans," Howe said.

The project is currently going through public review, with construction scheduled to start in early 2013 and last for two years.