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Seaport Task Force Objects to Developer's Planned 50-Story Tower

 The Seaport Working Group, a task force of elected officials and community leaders, presented its guidelines for redevelopment of the South Street Seaport.
South Street Seaport Working Group
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SOUTH STREET SEAPORT — Howard Hughes' planned 600-foot South Street Seaport tower is too tall for the neighborhood, said a group of local officials and community leaders tasked with reviewing the project.

The Seaport Working Group, which has been meeting privately with Howard Hughes representatives for the past three months, revealed its recommendations this week, including a request for a shorter building more in keeping with the area's historic character.

"We didn't want to just say no to the tower — we want to have them bring something else to the table," said Amanda Byron Zink, a member of the working group and owner of Seaport dog spa and groomer, The Salty Paw.

"Generally, people were against a huge skyscraper, but we'd hope there's a way to bring the benefits of redevelopment to South Street without a 50-story building that blocks the iconic view of the Brooklyn Bridge."

The Seaport Working Group was formed in response to Howard Hughes' controversial proposal to redevelop the abandoned Fulton Fish Market warehouses next to Pier 17, building a 50-story luxury apartment and hotel tower.

South Street Seaport residents and business owners packed a meeting in Southbridge Towers Monday night to get their first glimpse of the working group’s recommendations, which are not binding, but which Howard Hughes has promised to consider. 

In addition to requesting that Howard Hughes reconsider the tower, the working group also asked for new open spaces along the waterfront, a revitalized South Street Seaport Museum and improved walkways and bike paths.

The Seaport Working Group's weekly meetings were held behind closed doors, but now the group is seeking public feedback on its recommendations.

“We can’t work in a vacuum here,” City Councilwoman Margaret Chin, a member of the working group, told attendees of Monday's meeting. “Tonight is about you…we need your input.”

Participants were given Post-it notes to jot down their thoughts on the guidelines, and then they stuck them on posters that were set up around the room.

"It feels like an open dialogue,” said longtime Seaport resident Zette Emmons, who wrote on her Post-it that she wanted to see a fresh food marketplace in the district. “Very different from previous meeting where people were yelling — I guess we’ll have to wait and see what actually comes from it.”

Those who could not attend the meeting can read the guidelines and submit comments by this Friday on Community Board 1’s website or Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s website.

A final draft of the recommendations will be sent to Howard Hughes within the next few weeks, and then Howard Hughes will present a revised development plan to the working group.

The timeline for the presentation has not yet been set, said Chris Curry, Howard Hughes’ vice president for development, who declined to comment further.

Howard Hughes will likely submit its final plans to the city in the fall. The developer will need to go through several layers of city review, including the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the City Council.