Balled out: Seaport Christmas tree moving to Pier 17 to make room for orbs of colored lights

“Sea of Light” is a one-of-a-kind interactive art installation coming to Fulton Street this holiday season. Colorful lights and sound will be activated by touching the glowing orbs.
Symmetry Labs / Jane Kratochvil


The Seaport Christmas tree is moving from Fulton Street this year, ending an annual tradition that has lasted more than three decades.

A Christmas tree will continue to be part of the holiday tradition at the Seaport, but this year the Howard Hughes Corporation will relocate the lavishly decorated tree to the recently opened Seaport Square adjacent to the new Pier 17 building.

Photo bt Janel Bladow
The Seaport tree, in exile at Pier 17.

The move is in collaboration with the South Street Seaport Museum which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, according to a HHC spokesperson. The idea is to draw attention to the Museum’s historic ships, Ambrose and Wavertree — both vessels, in an age-old maritime tradition, will also be decorated with Christmas trees.

The move also makes way for a new activities on Fulton Street.

“The Howard Hughes Corporation is excited to be expanding this year’s holiday experience at the Seaport District with a new winter light installation,” the company’s spokesperson told Downtown Express.

“Sea of Light,” a one-of-a-kind interactive public art installation, will jazz up the street’s cobblestones with massive balls of light and colors. These enormous pods of colored lights appear to be flashing, vibrating, and pulsating on the street. Lights and sound are activated by touch, so that folks are not only viewers but also participants in the experience.

“Sea of Light” is created by Alexander Green and Symmetry Labs, a San Francisco-based interactive light-art collective known for works at Burning Man, Superbowl Village and other events.

A free party with live bands, DJ music, and more, will kick off the three-month installation on Tuesday, Dec. 5, at 5:30 pm. To reserve tickets, go to

But “Sea of Light” will have competition on Fulton Street — from new holiday shops.

A seasonal marketplace also opens at 6 Fulton St., hosted by WantedDesign Store. The holiday market features more than 20 designers and brands. Shoppers can pick up Christmas tree candles scented with pine, cypress, and balsam by Brooklyn Candle. Other sellers include designs such as Elodie Blanchard, Skagen, Malle London.

The holiday market will be open every day, 11 am to 7 pm, beginning Dec. 1. It will close on both Christmas and New Year’s eves at 4 pm and will be closed Christmas Day.

All these new activities are nice, according to locals, but they say they’ll miss the magical view of the Christmas tree standing majestically at the Seaport’s entrance at Fulton and Water streets.

Photographer Debra Florez, who has lived in the Seaport for four years and is an active member of the Old Seaport Alliance steering committee, isn’t happy with the move.

“The tree was a long-standing tradition — 30-some years,” she said. “Saying that the tree is on the pier won’t salvage that. The tree was a symbol. With it gone, that will affect our already existing small businesses. There is nothing now drawing shoppers to them. The tree was a lure, a beacon by the lighthouse.”

Florez admits that the collaboration with the museum is a great idea.

“The museum is in survival mode,” she said. “Howard Hughes moved the tree to pier to promote ships, which is nice. They need to salvage this little jewel.”

But she’s skeptical that the tree will be enough to attract visitors to the museum’s Street of Ships, since Pier 17 itself isn’t finished and there are no shops open for business.

“In winter, at night, it’s cold and windy out there by the water,” said Florez. “And the view of the tree from the Seaport will be obstructed by the overhead ramp of the FDR.”

Other neighbors worry that moving the tree will take away a bit of the local Christmas spirit.

“The greatest joy in being a resident of the Seaport is that we are a community, a borrow-a-cup-of-sugar-type of community,” said Allison Galanowsky, who also lives in the area. “The Seaport embodies neighbors that become friends. Not having a tree this year on Fulton Street takes away from that feeling.”

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6 Responses to Balled out: Seaport Christmas tree moving to Pier 17 to make room for orbs of colored lights

  1. 30 years it’s been there and now a bunch of lit balls take over?+
    Looks like sewer intestines protruding through the street.
    Put the tree by the FDR where its’ full view is obstructed and in a place not populated by passersby?

    Oh, brother!

    Genius (bonehead) move, folks!

  2. Arthur Mcmurray

    Thank you Howard Hughes for riding in from Texas and making grand decisions about our community in New York without understanding the community at all! The residents of South Street Seaport will take every action to return the tree back where it belongs!

  3. What a grand disappointment!

    What are those ridiculous glowing Easter eggs coming out of the Historic cobblestones at the Seaport?

    The poor tree. Looks like it shrunk.

    What happened to the tree ceremony on Tuesday night? We arrived at 6, thinking we were late, but told by the lonely holiday vendor nearby that the Tree Ceremony was running late.

    Who know how late!

    We decided to check out the music. Live singer. That part is good, but when will people realize that music with a heavy bass is hardly music and for blocks away, all anyone feels is a pounding.


  4. Frances M. Curtis

    WHAT!!!!! Now when you walk East on Fulton Street instead of the beautiful tree there will be those AWFUL glowing easter eggs, YUCK! PLEASE Bring back the tree the next greatest sign of the holidays at the Seaport for those of us not wanting to deal the the the Rock Center crowds. The lights on the ship look nice but I want the real tree I grew up having.

  5. Updated, modern day, invasion of the body snatchers’ pods. Who is making decisions about public displays?

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