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BY JOSH ROGERS | Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Councilmember Margaret Chin and State Sen. Daniel Squadron fired off a letter to Howard Hughes Corp. May 1 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 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.”
The Hughes Corp. spokesperson did not comment on the letter and as of May 12, they had not responded to the politicians.
— With reporting by Terese Loeb Kreuzer