Opponents of Seaport plan hope city approval process thwarts development


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Last Monday residents from Lower Manhattan gathered with representatives of Community Board 1 and the Howard Hughes Corporation to air concerns over a proposal to develop the South Street Seaport.


Howard Hughes wants to build a 600-foot residential tower on the north side of Pier 17, a project that they say will subsidize the rest of their Seaport development plans, which include reconstructing and moving the landmark Tin Building and building a marina at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge.


The company has already received city approval to redevelop Pier 17 into a shopping, dining and entertainment venue.


For residents protesting the plan, the tower is a non-starter. They argue it will block views of the Brooklyn Bridge, is out of character with the Seaport, and that Lower Manhattan doesn't need any more luxury housing. Residents are also wary of Pier 17 becoming a shopping mecca.


In November Howard Hughes said the only way to fund the Seaport's restoration is to build a residential high rise.


Howard Hughes holds a 60-year lease on Pier 17 and other parts of the Seaport with the NYC Economic Development Corporation. The company must now receive approval to build the tower through the city's Uniform Land Use Review Process, a hurdle that Howard Hughes vice president Chris Curry said they hope to clear by the spring of 2015.


Along with many downtown residents, CB1 also opposes the plan; Seaport Committee chair John Fratta said that Howard Hughes and the EDC kept residents and the community in the dark about about their plans in order to get as far along in the process as they could before the de Blasio administration took office.


Details about the proposal were only revealed in November after Lower Manhattan elected officials, including Assemblyman Sheldon Silver and Councilwoman Margaret Chin, sent a letter to Howard Hughes and the EDC decrying their lack of transparency.


The de Blasio administration has approached Howard Hughes about including an affordable housing component in the high-rise, but Fratta said he doesn't know if Howard Hughes has agreed. Even if they do, he said, it won't change his or anyone else's mind.


"Our issue is very simple; putting a tower in the Seaport historic district is an abomination," said Fratta. "I mean, you've got all low-rise buildings and then you have this monster sticking up in the middle, it's just outrageous that anybody would consider that."


When asked if opponents of the proposal are considering litigation to stop it, Fratta said, "It's too early for that, we have to see what happens during the [ULURP] process."


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