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To The Editor:
I am greatly disappointed by the article in the Downtown Express about a “secret plan” for development at the South Street Seaport (posted to Downtownexpress.com, March 29, “Seaport developer’s secret plan for hotel & apartments revealed’).
First, there is no “secret” plan for development at the Seaport. It is a well-known fact that for years developers have sought to build a project that includes hotel and residential uses at the Seaport.
Howard Hughes’ predecessor, General Growth, first proposed a condo-hotel tower on the site of the New Market Building in 2007. At the time, I testified against General Growth’s Plan, saying: “People come down to the Seaport because of its history. A 40-story tower has no place in the Seaport,” (news article, July 11 -17, 2008, “Some like Seaport plan’s tower, others say build a school,”).
My position has not changed: I will not support a development plan from Howard Hughes, or anyone else, that includes high-rise buildings at the Seaport. Furthermore, any development at the Seaport must be consistent with the character of the neighborhood and its history; and must provide benefits to the surrounding community.
Second, the Express wrongly characterizes the Letter of Intent (L.O.I.) between the Howard Hughes Corporation (H.H.C.) and the city’s Economic Development Corporation as this “secret” plan for development at the Seaport.
The L.O.I., which has been available to the public since December 2011, is a non-binding agreement that gives Howard Hughes the ability to propose a mixed-use project at the Seaport. Howard Hughes must submit a first-draft of a design for this project to the city prior to August 30, 2013.
To date, H.H.C. has not presented a proposal to the city. When it does, the city may or may not find the proposal acceptable.
Any development at sites H.H.C. leases at the Seaport will trigger a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). This is a public process which necessitates sign-offs from the community board and borough president, and ultimately, approval from City Planning and the City Council before any development can proceed.
There is no great conspiracy surrounding the future of development at South Street Seaport; and to imply so is simply irresponsible.
Margaret S. Chin
Editor’s Note: The article focused on the unredacted portion of the letter of intent, which was only recently made available to the public. The article also pointed out the lengthy review process that Councilmember Chin cites in her letter. We’re not aware of an instance when a Howard Hughes Corp. executive ever voiced their development intentions in public.