SOUTH STREET SEAPORT — A controversial plan to build a 494-foot luxury high-rise in the South Street Seaport will be “significantly revised,” its developer said.
In a recent letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio, Howard Hughes Corporation’s CEO David Weinreb said his company is “working on a significantly revised plan to address the height issue...following thoughtful planning and discussions with local officials and members of the community.”
The soaring tower has long been a point of contention for local leaders and residents who say the development is out of place among the historic, low-rise buildings in the Seaport.
The developer has contended that the mostly residential building would provide the necessary revenue for its larger plan of a vibrant Seaport with more than $300 million in community amenities.
But, while championing the benefits of the bigger Seaport overhaul in his letter to the mayor, Weinreb conceded that their proposal “did not completely satisfy” the community's “request for a shorter building.”
Weinreb’s letter did not give details of how the proposal has been tweaked, but said that they “hope to present the proposal to you and the community within the coming weeks.”
Controversy has been swirling for more than a year around the developer’s Seaport overhaul, which still has not begun its lengthy public approval process.
The developer first announced plans for a much maligned 600-foot tower in 2013. That initial proposal led to the formation a the Seaport Working Group, a task force of officials and community leaders who met behind closed doors for months with the developer to discuss revising the plans.
Last November, after the group’s input, the developer shaved the height of the building to 494 feet, but that still was not low enough, officials and community leaders said.
The tower is slated be built on the site of a historic Fulton Fish Market warehouse that has fallen into disrepair, and at the base of the Pier 17 — a pier the developer is currently rebuilding.
Howard Hughes sent the recent letter to the mayor to address what Weinreb called the "’the gross mischaracterization of the Seaport’s redevelopment process" by the New York Landmarks Conservancy and other preservationists and local groups, including Community Board 1 which has been calling on the city and developer for increased transparency in the overhaul.
Peg Breen, the president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy said her organization and others are simply trying to get a better understanding of how the redevelopment will actually reshape the Seaport and to protect the historic neighborhood.
"We think the public should have a clear understanding of how they are planning to move forward, and we wantto make sure they are respecting the neighborhood," Breen said.
Community benefits in the planned redevelopment, according to Howard Hughes, include a new middle school and affordable housing.
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 to move the landmarked Tin Building 30 feet, out from under the FDR Drive closer to Pier 17, and lifting it six feet — to come in line with current FEMA flood level parameters. The building would be turned into a food market.
Howard Hughes declined to comment on specifics of its revised plans.
In a joint statement, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Councilwoman Margaret Chin, who both oppose the skyscraper as currently envisioned, said they welcome a new, revised plan.
"We look forward to seeing how well their revised proposal meets the Seaport Working Group guidelines and preserves and enhances the vibrancy and historical significance that the Seaport deserves," they said in the statement.
"The entire area can fairly be described as where New York City began; it’s up to us to make sure future generations can see how.”