Final day nears for Seaport’s holdout tenant

Downtown Express photos by Terese Loeb Kreuzer Joey Demane of Simply Seafood, the last place open in Pier 17.

Downtown Express photos by Terese Loeb Kreuzer
(Above) Pier 17, empty and unheated. (Below) Joey Demane of Simply Seafood, the last place open in Pier 17.

BY TERESE LOEB KREUZER   |  Nine days after the groundbreaking for the demolition of the existing shopping mall on Pier 17 in the South Street Seaport, a guard and two policemen were stationed at the entrance to the building next to a sign that read, “Shops are closed except for ‘Simply Seafood.’ We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.”

Inside on Sat., Oct. 26, the building was darkened and whistle clean except for another sign indicating that Simply Seafood was on the third floor, accessible by stairway.

At the far end of what had been the food court, one light was burning. Joey Demane emerged from the kitchen of the modest restaurant where decades-old signs state (among other items) that a fried shrimp sandwich on a grilled bun costs $4.60 and a plate of fish and chips is $6.45.

“Yes, we’re still open every day,” Demane said.

But a few days later, the heat in the building was turned off, according to Simply Seafood’s attorney, John O’Kelly, who thinks his client will be locked out sometime after Friday.

John Demane, 69, Joey’s father and owner of Simply Seafood, has been selling food on Pier 17 since 1983 and says he has a lease that runs through 2020. The pier’s current landlord, The Howard Hughes Corporation, says that Demane’s lease has long expired and he needs to leave.

Demane’s family had been selling fish in the Fulton Fish Market since 1947, even before the South Street Seaport existed.

O’Kelly, said that in 2004, several Pier 17 tenants, including Demane, sued the Rouse Company, a predecessor of Hughes Corp.

Judge Shlomo Hagler of the New York State Supreme Court had denied the Demanes’ request for a restraining order to delay the Pier 17 groundbreaking. O’Kelly expects Judge Hagler to rule on the question of damages by Nov. 8, and the lockout to occur sometime around then.

CROSSEDARMSA Hughes spokesperson in a prepared statement last month said that since 2005, the restaurant “has been an illegal, hold-over tenant at the Seaport…. They owe a substantial amount of money.”

In response, O’Kelly said that Demane “has paid all the rent that the court told the tenants to pay all these years.” The city’s Economic Development Corporation is the owner of Pier 17 and of other properties at the Seaport, and is the landlord for Hughes Corporation.

Joey Demane, who has been working at the restaurant for 30 years, said at the end of last month that even though the rest of the pier was closed, there had been a steady stream of customers.

Asked if he felt lonely in the building, especially at night, he said it was OK. “The people who work here have been very supportive,” he said. “I’ve known most of them for years. They say to me, ‘hang in there.’”

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