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South Street Seaport Mall Bids Bon Voyage After 28 Years

By Irene Plagianos | September 9, 2013 10:27am | Updated on September 9, 2013 12:35pm
 After 28 years, the pier 17 mall is closing on Sept. 9. The three story mall will be torn down and replaced with an upscale shopping center. Construction begins in October.
Pier 17 Mall Closing
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SOUTH STREET SEAPORT — After 28 years, it’s lights out for the hulking red mall on Pier 17.

Without any fanfare, the nearly three-decade-old South Street Seaport fixture — and what some locals call a dated tourist trap — will close for good when the mall’s shops and restaurants shut their doors Monday night.

Store owners are being forced out to make way for a long-planned renovation of the pier. The multi-million-dollar overhaul plan will tear down the current space to build a sleek, glass structure filled with high-end stores and restaurants. Construction is slated to begin in October.

“It’s sad — we’ve been here for eight years,” said Namik Sanli, the owner of U-Name It, an expansive store that sells customized license plates, T-shirts and other novelty items. “The rents are so high in the city now, we still don’t know where we’ll go next.”

Most of the shop owners, many of whom sell souvenirs and a selection of knickknacks, said they haven’t been asked to come back.

“There’s no place for the mom-and-pop store in the new mall,” said a shop owner who asked that his name not be used. “But I don’t know if there’s room anywhere in city for that anymore.”

Howard Hughes representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

But some shops, like jewelry store Stone Flower, have already found life after the mall. The shop is moving to a new space in Williamsburg.

Tina Colon, the store’s manager for the past five years, said they are ready for the change.

“Honestly, the views here are beautiful, but this mall is ugly,” Colon said. “Especially after Hurricane Sandy, a lot of the shops never reopened, and it’s kind of depressing in here — I’m glad we’re starting fresh somewhere else."

Though the mall was mostly spared the overwhelming damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy elsewhere in the Seaport, shops remained shuttered for more than a month after the storm.

Mall tenants had pushed Pier 17 owner Howard Hughes Corporation to move the demolition date  — originally scheduled for this July — to the fall, to let them recoup some of the financial losses of a slow winter with one last summer season in the mall.

“Having the summer definitely made a huge difference for us,” said Sal Himami, whose family has owned six Pier 17 eateries for more than 15 years. “We all needed the summer, even though it was slower than usual.”

To boost crowds to the rest of the Seaport, which still remains largely shuttered in the aftermath of the storm, Howard Hughes brought a host of summer programming, as well as pop-up shops in shipping containers and an outdoor food and drink pavilion run by the Brooklyn Flea, called Smorgasbar, to Fulton Street.

Smorgasbar will run through at least the end of September, organizers said. Some of the shipping container stores, which have already had some turnover, will remain open through December, several shop owners said.

Australian clothing chain Cotton On just opened its first New York location in one of the pop-ups over Labor Day weekend. Cotton On employees said they would be open at least through November.