Seaport Museum must stay, pols tell developer

Block of Fulton St. containing properties leased to South Street Seaport Museum and to Howard Hughes Corp. Downtown Express photo by Terese Loeb Kreuzer

Block of Fulton St. containing properties leased to South Street Seaport Museum and to Howard Hughes Corp. Downtown Express photo by Terese Loeb Kreuzer

BY JOSH ROGERS |(Updated with a quote from Seaport Museum president Susan Henshaw Jones) Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Councilmember Margaret Chin and State Sen. Daniel Squadron fired off a letter to Howard Hughes Corp. Wednesday saying it was “incumbent” on the developer to come up with a way to allow the South Street Seaport Museum to stay.

“As a leaseholder with plans to develop much of the surrounding area, we feel it is incumbent upon Howard Hughes to help our community come up with a solution that will keep the doors open at this outstanding museum,” read the May 1 letter to David Weinreb, C.E.O. of Hughes. “In fact, revenue generated from retail at the Seaport was always intended to help support the museum.”

The original 1981 lease between Howard Hughes’ predecessor in the Seaport, the Rouse Company, and the Seaport Museum was supposed to provide a funding source for the museum.

The financially strapped museum, which was damaged in Hurricane Sandy, was forced to close its Fulton St. galleries on April 7.

Since the fall of 2011, the museum has been managed by the Museum of the City of New York, which recently extended its management contract through July 5.

The Seaport Museum’s management has accused the Hughes firm of trying to push it out in order to get control of more property in the Seaport.

The corporation, which has a 60-year lease on portions of the Seaport, got City Council approval in March to demolish and rebuild the Pier 17 mall. After the vote, the city’s Economic Development Corp. released an unredacted Letter of Intent revealing Howard Hughes’ desire to build a large hotel and residential building in the neighborhood.

“We urge you to share more fully your development plans for the area with our community, including the ways in which you can integrate the museum,” the letter concluded. “Our neighborhood will greatly benefit from a thriving Seaport Museum.”

The museum and the buildings leased by Howard Hughes Corp. are on public land owned by E.D.C.

The Seaport is in the district of all three politicians who wrote the letter. Silver, as probably the state’s second most powerful Democrat after Gov. Cuomo, could be influential in this matter as could Councilmember Chin, who would get a vote to approve or block any future development plans of Howard Hughes. Sen. Squadron is running this year to be the city’s next public advocate.

In an email on Thursday afternoon, Susan Henshaw Jones, director of the Museum of the City of New York and president of the South Street Seaport Museum, said, “I just heard about this [letter] and I am grateful for their implicit praise.”

A Hughes Corp. spokesperson did not comment.

With reporting by TERESE LOEB KREUZER

The full text of the letter is below:

David Weinreb
CEO
The Howard Hughes Corporation
13355 Noel Road, 22nd floor
Dallas, TX 75240

Dear Mr. Weinreb:

We are writing to ask that the Howard Hughes Corporation join with us and our Lower
Manhattan community in supporting the South Street Seaport Museum. As you know, the museum,
along with many other businesses in the Seaport, was devastated by Superstorm Sandy. It was
forced to close its Fulton Street galleries and is in danger of shutting down completely when its
contract with the city expires this summer.

As a leaseholder with plans to develop much of the surrounding area, we feel it is
incumbent upon Howard Hughes to help our community come up with a solution that will keep the
doors open at this outstanding museum. In fact, revenue generated from retail at the Seaport was
always intended to help support the museum. The Seaport area is not only a unique and historically
valuable part of our city, it is an American treasure. The museum plays a vital role in preserving and
teaching that history while strengthening the special character of the neighborhood.

We urge you to work with the museum, its neighbors, the city Economic Development
Corporation, Community Board One and all of our local elected officials to find a way to save this
iconic cultural institution. Further, we urge you to share more fully your development plans for the
area with our community, including the ways in which you can integrate the museum. Our
neighborhood will greatly benefit from a thriving Seaport Museum.

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Senator Daniel Squadron, Assemblyman Sheldon Silver , Council Member Margaret S. Chin

 

Plaque showing the Seaport's retail complex was built with state public money. Downtown Express photo by Terese Loeb Kreuzer

Plaque showing the Seaport’s retail complex was built with state public money. Downtown Express photo by Terese Loeb Kreuzer

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One Response to Seaport Museum must stay, pols tell developer

  1. Jennie Baker

    Shouldn't this have been written into a legal contract with the Howard Hughes Corp. before the lease was granted? This letter basically begs Hughes to save the museum after the fact. How weak!

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