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Seaport Developer May Be Planning Hotel on Disputed Site, Documents Show

By Irene Plagianos | January 21, 2016 6:58pm
 The New Market Building, which sits along South Street, once hosted a weekly outdoor food market. The building, which has fallen into disrepair, will have a portion of its structure torn down.
The New Market Building, which sits along South Street, once hosted a weekly outdoor food market. The building, which has fallen into disrepair, will have a portion of its structure torn down.
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New Amsterdam Market

SOUTH STREET SEAPORT —  Seaport developer Howard Hughes Corporation submitted a draft plan to the city for a 10-story hotel on the controversial site of a former Fulton Fish Market warehouse, documents show — a revelation that set off concerns among local residents earlier this week.

Preservation group Friends of South Street Seaport released the developer's draft proposal for a mixed-use project in preparation for an environmental impact statement, which they obtained through a FOIL request.

According to the documents, submitted to the Economic Development Corporation in August, the developer was planning a 10-story, 185-room hotel on the site of the New Market Building — a dilapidated fish market warehouse that’s long been the source of community controversy, as some have hoped to preserve the abandoned building.

But according to the developer, the mixed-use project as outlined in the proposal is not moving forward now.

At a recent CB1 meeting, Chris Curry, an executive vice president of development for Howard Hughes said the draft proposal is not currently being pursued. The proposal “doesn’t mean anything to you today…at this point, that is not the plan,” he said.

The documents were submitted because of a “technical contractual deadline” with EDC, he said.

Residents and CB members were concerned that they hadn't been notified about any updated proposals for the area.

Curry said, however, if they were to pursue any plans related to building on the New Market site, they would have to go through a public land review process, which they are not pursuing now.

"It does beg the question, though, about the rest of your plans," said Roger Byrom, the chair of the CB's landmarks committee. "We would welcome a master plan."

Concerns have swirled around Howard Hughes’s overhaul plans since the developer released preliminary plans a couple of years ago for a mixed-use project that would have included a 494-foot condo tower on the New Market Building site, which sits at the foot of Pier 17 on the East River.

Curry recently said that plans for the much-maligned residential tower at the site were officially off the table, and that instead they were pursing a "commercial" building, which would not be tall.

The developer was at the CB meeting earlier this week to discuss the New Market Building’s neighboring fish market warehouse, the Tin Building, which is landmarked.

Curry, along with architects and engineers, laid out how the company was planning on refurbishing the building. The warehouse will be moved and dismantled, then rebuilt out from under the FDR. The building, which is also being lifted to meet new flood level guidelines, will be the home of a seafood-inspired food market helmed by famed chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

A rendering of the Tin Building, after it's transformed into a food market. (SHoP Architects)

CB members were overwhelming pleased with the design, which is slated to go before the Landmarks Preservation Commission in March for approval.

But concerns remained about the lacked of a master plan for the historic area. Some residents complained that they wanted to know what the company was planning for the rest of the area, before giving approval for pieces of a larger plan.

"Every time we turn around the project shifts and we're getting it segmented," said CB member Joseph Lerner. "They're piecemealing us to death."

Other plans mentioned in the FOIL draft proposal, and previously by Howard Hughes in earlier community presentations, include a marina and moving the South Street Seaport Museum. 

The Howard Hughes Corporation, in a statement to DNAinfo, reiterated that the plans submitted to EDC were "conceptual" and "not going forward at this time."

"Over the last two years, HHC has been engaged in ongoing dialogue with NYCEDC, the City, elected officials, and community stakeholders for a plan at the New Market site," the company wrote. "Once a proposal for the New Market site is finalized, HHC will submit an application to the appropriate agencies and the proposal will undergo all required public review as well as community engagement.”