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BY TERESE LOEB KREUZER | The Howard Hughes Corp., which has a 60-year lease on parts of the South Street Seaport, has summer plans to try and spike up Fulton and Front Sts. with some razzle-dazzle.
For starters, the Dallas-based corporation is planning to line Titanic Park (site of a memorial lighthouse that once crowned the Seamen’s Church Institute) with swings that play music and that light up at night.
It will also place shipping containers on Fulton St. that can house “up-and-coming retailers.” Curated by Brooklyn Flea, the Brooklyn food and flea market, SmorgasBar will set up shop atop these containers and on Front St., showcasing a rotating collection of a dozen local food and beverage purveyors.
New, mod kiosks have been designed for Fulton St., to replace the old ones trashed by Superstorm Sandy.
At the intersection of Fulton and Front Sts., Howard Hughes plans to roll out artificial grass and to set up lawn chairs for weekly screenings of family-friendly, action and comedy films. A preview film will be shown on Memorial Day weekend. The space will be utilized for live music on Wednesday nights.
Cannon’s Walk, an enclave of historic buildings opening onto both Fulton and Front Sts., will become an art venue, curated by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. In addition, an “event production/experiential marketing agency,” Brightest Young Things, from Washington, D.C. has been engaged by Howard Hughes to stage events in the Cannon’s Walk brick-walled courtyard.
“This is the beginning of the rebirth of the Seaport,” said Chris Curry, senior executive vice president for Howard Hughes on May 8, when he made a presentation about the summer plans to Community Board 1’s Seaport Committee. “We call it See/Change.”
He said that the South Street Seaport would be rebranded as “See/Change” and that a marketing campaign would take place throughout the summer.
Several members of the Community Board expressed concerns about the plans.
Jason Friedman said that he worried that “the kiosks will turn into something permanent. I don’t understand how you’re circumventing the community board,” he said. “You’re replacing it with something new in a historic district.”
Curry said that the new design was “consistent with the Pier 17 architecture.”
Michael Levine, director of planning and land use for Community Board 1, said he had similar reservations about the kiosks and wanted to know if any C.B. 1 approvals would be necessary before implementing the plans. Curry said no.
He said that the Landmarks Preservation Commission had already approved the Howard Hughes plans, as had the Fire Department. Subsequent to the community board meeting, the Department of Buildings also approved them.
“I don’t believe we need to get approval from all these agencies for these kiosks, but if I’m proven to be wrong, we’ll deal with it through the summer,” Curry said. “We were looking at trying to create a very exciting, compelling place for the community and for Lower Manhattan this summer.”
He made no mention of the South Street Seaport Museum in his remarks, however, Jerry Gallagher, the museum’s general manager, was at the meeting to fill the board in on what has been happening at the museum in recent weeks.
He said that the museum is continuing to work with the city and with the New York City Economic Development Corporation (E.D.C.) on post-Sandy repairs.
Gallagher mentioned that the museum’s popular Mini-Mates program for young children meets at the museum’s 12 Fulton St. facilities and that “school groups come to the museum at 12 Fulton St. Our education department is trying to schedule a summer camp for later on in the summer, probably in August,” he said. “That would be a one-week program.”
Though this might have sounded like random information, it was not. Because its mechanical and electrical systems were trashed by Sandy, the museum had to close its 12 Fulton St. galleries on April 7. Should the museum not occupy this space for six months, by virtue of its lease with E.D.C., the Howard Hughes Corp. would have an option to develop it.
Also, Gallagher’s reference to a possible summer camp in August seemed to indicate that there is some possibility that the Museum of the City of New York will continue to manage the South Street Seaport Museum after its contract expires on July 5.
However, in answer to specific questions about these issues, Gallagher said he had nothing to report.
Paul Goldstein of New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s office said that the museum’s continuance is a priority.
“Are there any efforts under way among the parties [E.D.C., the Howard Hughes Corp. and the museum] to get it resolved or is it just out there and nothing is really happening?” he asked.
“There are ongoing conversations between the Museum of the City of New York, the Department of Cultural Affairs and E.D.C. and I think that Howard Hughes Corp. is included in those conversations as well,” Gallagher said. “I don’t have anything else to report other than that with regard to negotiations.”