Hughes firm shaves Seaport Tower ‘down’ to just under 500 feet

BY JOSH ROGERS  (Updated at 11 p.m.  Nov. 19, 2014 with more details)| Howard Hughes Corporation shaved about 150 feet off its proposed South Street Seaport tower, well short of what opponents were hoping for from the long-awaited revisions to the firm’s South Street Seaport development plan.

“I question whether the proposal from Howard Hughes for a huge tower on the New Market site meets the Seaport Working Group’s guidelines developed over many months of discussion with the community, urban planners and other stakeholders,” Gale Brewer, Manhattan’s borough president, said in a prepared statement released for publication Wednesday night at 7 p.m. roughly the time Hughes’ private meeting with her and the rest of the Seaport Working Group was scheduled to end.

The height of the new design is 494 feet. The original tower height was always somewhat fuzzy, but Chris Curry, the Hughes executive claimed it was 600 feet in a Downtown Express interview back in January. A source sympathetic to the developer said that the original figure was really 650 feet.

“Our plan preserves the historic district, repairs crumbling infrastructure and delivers the benefits the community has called for: waterfront access, a middle school that could also serve as a community center, affordable housing, funding to save the Seaport Museum and tall ships, and a fresh food market, among other things,” David Weinreb, Hughes’ C.E.O. said in a prepared statement. “The plan represents a more than $300 million investment in public benefits for Lower Manhattan, driven by the economic engine of a new residential building. We are proud to have the support of Lower Manhattan families and small business owners who know that the only way to truly save the South Street Seaport is to invest in its future.  We are confident that as more residents learn about our plan, they will embrace it.”

The working group had been waiting since June for the firm’s revisions after it released its guidelines and principles, which called for an alternative to the tower.

“Historical context, building heights, and maintaining the vitality of the area are all elements which must be factored in to any final project in this crucial Manhattan neighborhood — the neighborhood where, in many ways, New York City began,” Brewer’s statement continued. “As I’ve said before, building a tower at the South Street Seaport is like building a tower at Colonial Williamsburg.

“Councilmember [Margaret] Chin and I have requested that the Seaport Working Group convene a meeting right after Thanksgiving to discuss the H.H.C. proposal presented tonight and evaluate it against the guidelines and principles the working group developed. I will withhold final judgment until after discussion by the working group.”

Chin released this statement Wednesday night: “Unfortunately, it’s clear that the Howard Hughes Corporation has not fully considered all of the guidelines put forth by the Seaport Working Group. I can’t support the proposed tower in its current form, and I can’t support the development proposal overall in its current form. There’s still a lot of work to be done to make sure this plan truly serves the Seaport community, and we must strongly consider alternatives to the proposed tower. I look forward to continuing the discussion with Howard Hughes, the Mayor’s office and Borough President Brewer and the other members of the Seaport Working Group, as we seek to protect the uniquely historic nature of the Seaport, while also creating a vibrant community for residents, visitors and local workers.”

Spokespersons for the city’s Economic Development Corp., which manages the city-owned property, have not responded to any questions Wednesday.

The new plan includes about 65 apartments, 30 percent of the proposed housing, will be below market rate. The plan also includes a middle school at the tower’s base.

“Our plan preserves the historic district, repairs crumbling infrastructure and delivers the benefits the community has called for: waterfront access, a middle school that could also serve as a community center, affordable housing, funding to save the Seaport Museum and tall ships, and a fresh food market, among other things,” David Weinreb, Hughes’ C.E.O., said in a prepared statement. “The plan represents a more than $300 million investment in public benefits for Lower Manhattan…. We are proud to have the support of Lower Manhattan families and small business owners who know that the only way to truly save the South Street Seaport is to invest in its future.  We are confident that as more residents learn about our plan, they will embrace it.”

Before being built the plan would need to receive Landmarks Preservation Corp. approval. Brewer and Community Board 1 would make a formal advisory opinion before it would go to Chin and her Council colleagues for an up or down vote.

But given the first negative reaction there’s likely to be more revisions to come.

Look for more details on this breaking story in the days to follow.

 

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5 Responses to Hughes firm shaves Seaport Tower ‘down’ to just under 500 feet

  1. What a shame that all the careful consideration of the Working Group is being summarily ignored by NYCEDC and HHC. Back to the drawing boards, you greedy rascals.

  2. As I understand it in the proposed tower HHC is hoping to have 150 condo units, at market rates. HHC is proposing to put affordable housing, 60-70 units IN THE SCHERMERHORN ROW, otherwise known as the South Street Seaport Museum. This is unacceptable. The slave ships outfitted on South Street and their slave traders, known as "Black Birders", ate and drank in Sweets Restaurant, part of the Schermerhorn Row, on the Fulton & South St. corner.
    Immigrants came off the Tall ships, and sailors also, and stayed in the old hotel, immortalized int Joseph Mitchell's book, "Up in the Old Hotel." This has to be preserved, the way the Tenement Museum has preserved the walls and peeling paint, of their apartments, with the stories of the families.
    Howard Hughes is bluffing, but we will not be bullied. We are completely against their plan and their paltry little community amenities, like a too small middle school, and a marina dangerously close to the security zone of the Brooklyn Bridge and its scary swift East River currents.
    We will not be bribed with stringy shrivelled carrots. This is an historic neighborhood not a mall.

  3. Is there no one to champion a world-class maritime museum? NYC certainly deserves an institution comparable to those in other great seaport cities. Through the timidity of the museum in standing up for itself, and local interest concentrating on the HHC development and local market themes, I fear that the museum is destined to become a pathetic and mediocre appendage to the developer. A historic district is more than old buildings occupied by chain stores and exploited by developers. And how will HHC save the museum and ships? Is a profit-making corporation going to support a non-profit making organization that has a large, fragile and expensive fleet of old ships? Perhaps HHC is more altruistic than I give them credit for, but this all sounds very familiar – Rouse, part 2. And how did that work out?

    And where are the calls for the city to support the museum by providing partial operating funds, as they do for other institutions? Without that support, and the museum has never had that support, it's doomed to be reduced to a museum in name only, devoid of true and accurate ship restoration, research and academic pursuits while educating the public in the way of things maritime.

    The call for transparency from elected officials and others is pitiful; what is going on is all too transparent. The museum will wind up in a refrigerator box under the FDR and liable for the safety of the ships. Will there, or won't there be a library and will the museum of the future be a repository for maritime history, artifacts and research? Will it show it's collection?

    There's no question that there will be a tower. But a tower with a vibrant and interesting maritime museum is better than a tower without one.

  4. Chin and Brewer need the boot. Couple of back door bumblers. Are they even aware that there is a residential population in Fidi that lacks basic amenities? Are they aware that a new Seaport would be a solution for this issue? I dont get what they are fighting for – the plan HHC proposes offers everything they are asking for. Oh wait that's right they need votes soon, so they have to appear to actually fight for the little guy. THE LITTLE GUYS WANT A NEW SEAPORT! Wake Up electeds. Dont make this another missed opportunity – as you are already so close to doing.

  5. Doris what "basic amenities" are we lacking in FiDi? Hm?
    If you want huge luxury towers with chain stores open 24/7, move to Midtown and do us all a favor.

    This isn't Columbus Circle, this is a historic district with a unique character that must be preserved.
    The little guys want a seaport that honors our history and is an example of preservation, not another 24/7 temple to retail and profits.

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