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Controversial Plan for Condo Tower at Seaport Is Nixed, Developer Says

By Irene Plagianos | December 16, 2015 8:17am | Updated on December 16, 2015 10:17am
 The revised shape of the soaring tower, said SHoP archetects, was created with boat sails in mind, the way it curves and cuts.
The revised shape of the soaring tower, said SHoP archetects, was created with boat sails in mind, the way it curves and cuts.
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DNAinfo/Irene Plagianos

SOUTH STREET SEAPORT — A controversial and long-stalled plan to build a luxury condo tower on the site of a former Fulton Fish Market warehouse is not happening, the developer said.

The Howard Hughes Corporation's plans for the 494-foot condo tower at the New Market Building site, a dilapidated former Fulton Fish Market warehouse that sits at the base of Pier 17, had been on hold for months, after prolonged pushback from residents and local officials.

"There will be no residential tower on that site," Christopher Curry, an executive vice president of development for the Howard Hughes Corporation, said during a Community Board 1 meeting Tuesday night. 

Instead, Curry said, the developer is planning to erect a "commercial building" at the New Market site, but that it will not be tall. He declined to comment about what kind of business might be in the building, and why the company decided to squash the residential plan.

Opponents felt the tower would block the view of the Brooklyn Bridge and was out of step with the historic neighborhood's low-rise buildings.

Over the summer, Howard Hughes Corporation CEO David Weinreb said the company was working to "address the height issue" and would offer a revised plan, but that proposal was not released at the time.

Back in 2013, the developer first announced plans for a taller, and much-maligned 600-foot tower for the New Market building site, as part of a larger redevelopment of the Seaport.

That initial proposal led to the formation of the Seaport Working Group, a task force of officials and community leaders who met behind closed doors for months with the developer to discuss overhauling the plans.

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 company is still the midst of working on a grander overhaul for the Seaport, which initially included a tower to help fund improvements to the area.

The redevelopment plans call for shifting and refurbishing the Tin Building, a landmarked Fulton Fish Market warehouse — which neighbors the New Market Building — and turning it into seafood-inspired foot market, helmed by famed chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

The original Fulton Fish Market operated at the site from 1822 to 2005. The two former fish market warehouses at the base of Pier 17 — which is currently being reconstructed by the Hughes Corporation and will be the site of a sleek, glass, outdoor shopping center— have long been a source of controversy for the community, with many preservationists and locals hoping to save both buildings.

Curry said they are still working on redevelopment plans, but that part of the wait is related to the South Street Seaport Museum. The Hughes redevelopment proposal had included moving the South Street Seaport Museum to two new locations, one on Pier 16 and the other on Schermerhorn Row.

But Curry said Tuesday that they "can't go any further" with the plans until they come to an agreement with the museum about their new space — something that hasn't happened yet, he said.

Talk about the redevelopment plans came up during a brief update Curry was giving to the board, in which he quickly discussed Howard Hughes' recent $38.3 million purchase of the the Best Western building at 33 Peck Slip as part of a bankruptcy auction — a building which had been eyed by Cipriani for a luxury hotel.

Curry said he had no information yet to give the board about what the company would do with the hotel building.

When asked why they purchased the building, Curry said that in the Seaport: "We'll buy everything we can, we're ambitious."