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Task Force Begins Review of Controversial 50-Story Seaport Tower

By Irene Plagianos | February 26, 2014 10:42am
 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 task force of elected officials and community leaders begins meeting this week on Howard Hughes Corporation's controversial 50-story Seaport tower plan, which the developer put on hold to give the community more time to review.

The group will scrutinize Howard Hughes' designs and make suggestions for changes before the formal public review of the project begins. While the recommendations will not be legally binding, Howard Hughes has agreed to take them into consideration, group members said.

"We take our stewardship of the Seaport very seriously," said Chris Curry, Howard Hughes' vice president for development, at Community Board 1’s full board meeting Tuesday night. "We are looking forward to our continued work with the community."

The task force will include Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Councilwoman Margaret Chin and CB1 Chairwoman Catherine McVay Hughes. The first meeting will be held at Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s office on Thursday. It will not be open to the public.

“Getting this working group together wasn’t easy — you can’t imagine how many phone calls it took,” Brewer said. “But I believe in transparency and I believe in community input.”

Other organizations and officials that will be part of the new group include state Sen. Daniel Squadron; Save Our Seaport; the Downtown Alliance; Paul Kefer, a member of South Bridge Towers board of directors; and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.

Organizers expect the group to meet over the next two to three months before issuing recommendations.

The announcement of the working group comes after several months of community pushback over Howard Hughes' plan to overhaul the abandoned Fulton Fish Market warehouses that sit next to the soon-to-be redone Pier 17, to build a soaring high-rise condo and hotel tower.

Howard Hughes originally planned to submit the project to official public review this spring — a lengthy process that includes input from the community board, borough president, City Planning Commission and City Council — but agreed to put it on hold while the task force meets, officials said.

Officials said they hoped this community-based approach to development, before a formal land-use review process, would become a standard part of major city projects in the future.