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PHOTOS: Check Out the Controversial 494-Foot Tower Proposed for the Seaport

By Irene Plagianos | November 20, 2014 8:45am | Updated on November 21, 2014 4:26pm
 Howard Hughes will reduce its skyscraper more than 100 feet, but that's not enough, officials said.
494-Foot Tower Proposed for South Street Seaport
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DOWNTOWN — Howard Hughes Corporation is pushing ahead with its controversial plan to build a soaring, luxury high-rise in the South Street Seaport, but has shaved more than 100 feet from its height, according to the company's newly revealed proposal to overhaul the Seaport.

The development plans for the new 494-foot tower, originally announced a year ago as a much-maligned 600-foot residence and hotel, has already been criticized by some of the local officials and residents tasked with reviewing the project.

But developers say the tower will provide the necessary revenue for their larger plan for a reimagined, vibrant Seaport with $300 million in community amenities.

The latest iteration of the skyscraper cuts the height to 494 feet, down from 52 to 42 stories. It would be built on the site of the shuttered New Market building, an abandoned Fulton Fish Market warehouse that sits next to the under-construction Pier 17.

The tower would include a middle school on three floors and retail at the base, plus about 150 condo units. There will also be about 70 units of affordable housing, but those would be built outside of the tower, in historic buildings on nearby Schermerhorn Row, which Howard Hughes would overhaul.

Also included in the plan are a new, expansive marina, to the east of pier 17, and a proposal to move the cash-strapped South Street Seaport Museum to two new locations, one on Pier 16 and the other on Schermerhorn Row.

The developer is also proposing moving the landmarked Tin Building 30 feet, out from under the FDR Drive closer to Pier 17, and lifting it 6 feet — to come in line with current FEMA flood level parameters. The building would be turned into a food market.

Howard Hughes CEO David Weinreb said Thursday at an unveiling of the development plans that his company was committed to keeping the museum afloat. All the proposed changes to the Seaport, however, would need the tower to generate revenue.

Several members of the Seaport Working Group, which has met behind closed doors with Howard Hughes to suggest changes to the plan, were displeased with the developer's latest proposal.

“Unfortunately, it’s clear that the Howard Hughes Corp. has not fully considered all of the guidelines put forth by the Seaport Working Group,” said Councilwoman Margaret Chin. “I can’t support the proposed tower in its current form, and I can’t support the development proposal overall in its current form.”

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer offered similar disapproval. “As I’ve said before, building a tower at the South Street Seaport is like building a tower at Colonial Williamsburg,” she said.

Howard Hughes' plans for the skyscraper were first released about a year ago, setting off a firestorm of complaints. Many residents feared the tower would obstruct views and stick out like a sore thumb in neighborhood of low-rise 19th-century buildings.

Weinreb, from Howard Hughes, defended the plan this week.

"We are proud to have the support of Lower Manhattan families and small business owners who know that the only way to truly save the South Street Seaport is to invest in its future," he said. "We are confident that as more residents learn about our plan, they will embrace it.”

The Seaport Working Group plans to meet again to discuss the revised plans on Dec. 3. The plan still needs to go through a lengthy public approval process before it can move forward.