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South Street Seaport Redevelopment Hearing Packed Like Sardines

LOWER MANHATTAN — Hundreds of people packed into City Hall Thursday afternoon for a chance to weigh in on the massive redevelopment plan for South Street Seaport’s Pier 17 — including a slew of supporters of the New Amsterdam Market, who raised concerns about the lack of a plan for the old Fulton Fish Market buildings.

Concerned residents and business owners, along with a host of supporters, lined up along Broadway ahead of the City Council’s Land Use Committee’s hearing on developer Howard Hughes Corporation’s proposal to gut the entire pier — including the touristy, dated Pier 17 Mall — and replace it with high-end shops and restaurants built in a sleek, glass structure.

So many people showed up to voice their opinion on the plan that council members, at the last moment, decided to move the hearing into the expansive bi-level council chambers from a smaller hearing room.

While the hearing was supposed to focus only on Pier 17, a number of people came to raise concerns about the abandoned Fulton Fish Market warehouses known as the New Market Building and the Tin Building, which sit at the base of the pier.

There’s been a growing call to save the long fought-over properties from development and convert the spaces into a year-round home for the popular New Amsterdam Market.

While Councilwoman Margaret Chin said she was a supporter of the New Amsterdam Market as something “essential to a robust and diverse Seaport,” she said the buildings were not within the scope of Howard Hughes’s plans for Pier 17’s development under review at the meeting.

The real estate giant has first rights to develop the fish market buildings, though it has not said publicly what, if anything, it intends to do with the contested properties. The company has until June 30 to submit building plans. Possible plans would have to undergo the Uniform Land Review Process, or ULURP.

Robert LaValva, the founder of New Amsterdam Market who made a huge push to get market supporters to the meeting, said the hearing was the right time to bring attention to the Fulton Market buildings.

“Some people will try to tell you that the ULURP before the council today has nothing to do with the Fulton Market Site, and that we should express our concerns in the future,” said LaValva. “I am here to tell you that is not the case … if we wait until these plans are proposed, it will be too late.”

LaValva, along with other speakers, including Community Board 1’s Land Use Chairman Michael Levine, voiced concern about HHC’s lack of a public plan for the Fulton Market buildings.

The rezoning that would allow for Pier 17’s multi-level commercial space, would also rezone the site of the New Market Building.

The company's silence has raised fears that Howard Hughes may be looking to resurrect previous developer General Growth Properties' failed proposal from several years ago to knock down the New Market Building and replace it with a much-maligned 500-foot condo and hotel tower.

During the hearing, HHC’s Vice President Christopher Curry presented their plan, which is largely supported by the community and has been given its seal of approval from CB1.

Chin grilled HHC about several issues, including allowing tenants in Pier 17 to stay through the summer. Tenants are currently required to vacate by May 1 for construction that isn't slated to start until June 30.

"We empathize with the tenants," said Curry. "But we right now are honoring our commitment with the EDC to start construction on time."