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Top City Chefs Want to Save Historic Fulton Fish Market Buildings

By Irene Plagianos | March 5, 2013 6:21pm | Updated on March 5, 2013 10:08pm

SOUTH STREET SEAPORT — When it comes to saving the Seaport’s historic Fulton Fish Market buildings, these chefs aren’t mincing their words.

Ten of the city's top restaurateurs have thrown their support behind a petition to preserve the abandoned fish market warehouses — known as the Tin Building and New Market Building — and convert the spaces into a year-round home for the popular, artisanal New Amsterdam Market.

Executive chefs from high-end restaurants including Gramercy Tavern, Jean-Georges and Telepan, as well as the owners of popular spots like The Meatball Shop and Luke’s Lobster, all appear in a new video urging New Yorkers to get behind the growing call to save the long-fought-over city-owned properties from development.

“I’m really supporting this,” says a smiling Jean-Georges Vongerichten, shown in his bustling, Michelin-rated restaurant. “This is part of my history but also New York’s history.”

The petition, launched last month by the grassroots group Save Our Seaport, is the latest push to repair the buildings and turn them into a permanent space for the seasonal, outdoor New Amsterdam Market.

Real estate giant Howard Hughes, which has a massive redevelopment plan for the Seaport’s Pier 17 in the works, also has dibs on the fish market buildings, which sit at the base of the pier. The company's first rights to develop the space will be lost if the company doesn't submit plans to the city by June 30.

Howard Hughes has not said publicly what, if anything, the company plans to do with the space. Previous developers have put forth plans to tear down the New Market Building — which, unlike the Tin Building, is not landmarked — and put up a high-rise in its place.

Robert LaValva, founder of New Amsterdam Market, has been leading the charge along with Save Our Seaport to keep the buildings intact.

"These buildings are unique, iconic and historic," LaValva told DNAinfo.com New York last week. "Our goal is to preserve them as a public marketplace."

So far, the petition has more than 1,000 signatures. The group plans to present the petition at a  City Council hearing on March 14 about Howard Hughes' Pier 17 development, which must be voted on by the council.

Howard Hughes Corporation and the city's Economic Development Corporation did not immediately respond to requests for comment.