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Hotel Rooms on Historic Boats Among Ideas Floated for South Street Seaport

By Irene Plagianos | January 14, 2014 3:06pm | Updated on January 14, 2014 5:56pm
 The Old Seaport Alliance is proposing turning the South Street Seaport Museum's fleet of historic ships into floating hotels, as a way to buoy the floundering institution.
The Old Seaport Alliance is proposing turning the South Street Seaport Museum's fleet of historic ships into floating hotels, as a way to buoy the floundering institution.
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SOUTH STREET SEAPORT — When you check into this hotel, bring your sea legs.

A bid to turn the South Street Seaport Museum's historic fleet of ships into floating hotels was among the latest ideas for the South Street Seaport's future put forward at a town hall meeting Monday night.

Community Board 1 member Marco Pasanella — speaking on behalf of the Old Seaport Alliance, an organization founded by area business owners — suggested turning the South Street Seaport Museum’s historic fleet of ships into floating hotels, as a means to help fund the cash-strapped institution.

Pasanella, who is not affiliated with the Seaport Museum, also proposed making the Seaport a “food capital" that could host a culinary school, a training restaurant or even a Food Network studio.

“Right now, these are just ideas,” Pasanella, who owns South Street wine shop Pasanella & Son Vintners, told DNAinfo New York. “But, we’re actively looking for ways to create long-lasting, and positive changes to the neighborhood.”

Jonathan Boulware, the interim president of the South Street Seaport Museum, said preserving their historic ships “is a critical mission” of the institution, but the hotel plan may not work for them.

“While I'm not sure that the idea of hotel rooms in the ships is in our future, we're happy to consider all ideas and we look forward to working with our partners and neighbors in South Street Seaport to shepherd this historic district through the 21st century,” he wrote, in an emailed statement.

Pasanella also asked Seaport developer Howard Hughes Corporation to help make a “rapidly deployable flood barrier,” that could protect the area in another devastating storm like Hurricane Sandy. Finally, he called on the company to lease its space in the Seaport to small, unique businesses rather than national chains.

“This was our chance to get a dialogue started,” Pasanella said after the packed meeting at Pace University, which mostly revolved around criticism of Howard Hughes' controversial plan to build a 50-story apartment and hotel tower at the South Street Seaport.

“Howard Hughes’ development plans are a big concern for the neighborhood, but we also want to offer new ideas,” Passanella added.

As many local residents had long feared, Howard Hughes’ plan, announced in November, calls for tearing down the New Market Building, one of the old Fulton Fish Market warehouses that sit next to the under-construction Pier 17, and replacing it with a 600-foot 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.

Also at Monday's meeting, Robert LaValva, the founder of the New Amsterdam Market and a longtime Seaport activist, unveiled a new group he had created to fight Howard Hughes’ development.

Called “Just Press Pause," the group is calling for a halt on all redevelopment plans for the Seaport and the East River waterfront, to fully examine how the projects would change the neighborhood.

Howard Hughes' next step in the redevelopment is to present the plans to the Landmarks Preservation Commission in March. The company needs the LPC's approval, as well as the City Council's support. The lengthy public review process won't be complete until the spring of 2015, Hughes representatives said.

Howard Hughes did not immediately comment on Pasanella's proposals.