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Developer Plans 50-Story Hotel and Apartment Tower in Seaport

By Irene Plagianos | November 19, 2013 1:17pm | Updated on November 19, 2013 3:21pm
 Seaport developer Howard Hughes Corporation is planning a 50-story tower where the vacant New Market Building now sits.
Seaport developer Howard Hughes Corporation is planning a 50-story tower where the vacant New Market Building now sits.
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Rendering by SHOP Architects

SOUTH STREET SEAPORT — A 50-story luxury tower could soon rise on the South Street Seaport waterfront.

Howard Hughes Corporation’s long-anticipated plans to develop the former Fulton Fish Market warehouses next to the soon-to-be revamped Pier 17 include a soaring apartment and hotel complex, The New York Times reported.

As many local residents have long feared, Howard Hughes’ plan calls for tearing down the New Market Building, one of the old fish warehouses, and replacing it with a tall, shiny tower. The neighboring Tin Building, which is landmarked, would be moved 30 feet to the east to make way for the skyscraper, and it would be raised higher above the water, the Times reported.

The developer’s proposal also includes a new marina, and a plan to keep the flailing South Street Seaport Museum, afloat, as well as a plan to maintain the historic tall ships at Pier 17, the Times said, although those plans were not detailed.

Representatives from Howard Hughes are scheduled to unveil some of their Seaport plans publicly Tuesday evening at 6 p.m. during a Community Board 1 meeting in Southbridge Towers, at 90 Beekman St.

“The re-envisioned Seaport district will transform the piers’ iconic waterfront setting into a vibrant, highly engaging area,” David R. Weinreb, chief executive of Howard Hughes, told the Times, “while providing a critical catalyst for the revitalization of Lower Manhattan.”

Howard Hughes did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

The release of the proposal comes after persistent demands from community leaders and elected officials for a clearer picture of the developer’s long-term intentions for the Seaport.

Over the last several months, the company has quietly been negotiating with Seaport's owner, the Economic Development Corporation, a city agency.

According to the Times, the developer “had hoped to continue negotiating in secret with the city's Economic Development Corporation while it completed its proposal” but the outcry “for a more open design process forced the company to make the plans public.”

Though Howard Hughes is now giving a glimpse of its plans, the EDC has adamantly protected the developer’s proposal and business interests, refusing to give the plans to DNAinfo New York this fall after repeated attempts to obtain the documents through a Freedom of Information request.

In its denial of the FOIL request last week, the EDC wrote that revealing Howard Hughes' plans would hinder the private company's chances of securing tenants in the competitive Lower Manhattan retail market.

Releasing the proposal “could impair their ongoing negotiations and ability to negotiate with prospective tenants who are also being sought for other competing developments in lower Manhattan at the World Trade Center and World Financial Center,” the EDC wrote in its denial of DNAinfo's request.

The EDC did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

With plans now circulating, the public has begun to weigh in.

Robert LaValva, founder of the New Amsterdam Market, an artisanal food market held in the lot outside the old Fulton Market buildings, is rallying residents to voice their concerns.

LaValva and others have for years tried to push the city and Howard Hughes to repair the historic Tin Building and New Market Building and turn them into a permanent home for the popular, seasonal New Amsterdam Market.

"This is just another ill-conceived high-rise," LaValva said. "It has no place in the historic Seaport."

CB1's chairwoman, Catherine McVay Hughes, said that the release of the plan is "just the beginning of a very long process."

The plan requires Landmarks Preservation Commission approval, and ultimately City Council approval, which will both likely require months of review.

"Now is the time for the community to become engaged in the public process to speak about this plan and their vision of [the] Seaport area," the CB1 chairwoman said, "including saving the Seaport Museum and its historic vessels and character of the area."