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Local Food Market Coming to Historic Fulton Fish Warehouse

By Irene Plagianos | March 20, 2013 1:35pm | Updated on March 20, 2013 5:10pm

LOWER MANHATTAN — The abandoned Fulton Fish Market warehouse known as the Tin Building will eventually be transformed into a permanent home for a locally sourced food market, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said Wednesday.

“The fish may be gone, but the food is here to stay,” Quinn said of the new market that will take up at least 10,000 square feet in the landmarked building and be open seven days a week.

The plan for the marketplace came as the City Council approved the massive redevelopment plan for South Street Seaport’s Pier 17 on Wednesday, less than a week after hundreds of people packed into City Hall to weigh in on the overhaul that would 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.

The Tin Building market concession is one of several changes hammered out by City Council members, including Margaret Chin — who's taken a leading role in advocating for the Seaport's business owners — with developer Howard Hughes Corporation and the city's Economic Development Corporation to move the multi-million-dollar plan forward.

Howard Hughes also agreed to create another locally sourced food market sometime before Oct. 1, 2014 on the redeveloped pier.

The proposal for redeveloping Pier 17 did not include the Tin Building, which sits at the base of the pier, but many locals have voiced concern about the future of the historic city-owned warehouse — which Howard Hughes has first rights to develop.

Howard Hughes still has not revealed its plans for the building, but this new agreement now ensures that any development proposal for the Tin Building would include a year-round marketplace.

However, Howard Hughes has not made any announcements about how the other old Fulton Fish Market warehouse, known as the New Market Building, which sits next to the Tin Building, would figure into any future plans.

Howard Hughes also has first rights to develop that building, which is not landmarked. Residents have feared for years that developers would knock down the New Market Building and replace it with a much-maligned 500-foot condo and hotel tower.

But Robert LaValva, the founder of the New Amsterdam Market who made a huge push to get market supporters to last week’s council hearing and has been a driving force in creating a permanent Seaport marketplace, was conspicuously absent from Quinn’s press conference Tuesday.

LaValva told DNAinfo.com New York after the announcement that he’s very supportive of the Tin Building market, but it’s not the grand marketplace he had envisioned and he doesn’t think he’ll be involved in the future.

“I think it [the Tin Building marketplace] will be a wonderful amenity for the Seaport, but 10,000 square feet in one building does not make a great marketplace, like London’s 4-acre Borough Market, that we’ve had in mind and that we’ve been promoting,” LaValva said.

LaValva said he likely won’t even be bringing his outdoor New Amsterdam Market, which usually sets up on weekends outside of the old fish market warehouses starting in the spring, back to the Seaport.

“It’s been a very big investment of time, and we love the Seaport, but I’m not sure that we fit there anymore,” he said.

LaValva added that he’ll start looking for other places in the city to create a permanent and destination marketplace, though he doesn’t have specific locations in mind  yet.

Also Tuesday, Quinn announced some good news for current Pier 17 tenants.

Howard Hughes agreed to move the construction start date for the two-year Pier 17 renovation from July 1 to Oct. 1, allowing existing tenants to stay through Sept. 9 and remain open through the busy summer months.

Many tenants, who’d been told they must leave by May 1, have been pushing the city to change the construction date for months, saying summer sales would help them recoup some of their massive losses from closures due to Hurricane Sandy.

"We're so thrilled they changed the date — this is huge," said Sal Himami, an owner of several Pier 17 eateries who's been a vocal advocate for the pier's business owners. "We were killed by Sandy. Staying the summer means everything to the businesses here."