City puts Seaport tower ‘on hold,’ Downtown leaders say

Image courtesy of the Howard Hughes Corp. Rendering of Howard Hughes Corp.’s plan for the Seaport. Image courtesy of Howard Hughes Corp.
Rendering of Howard Hughes Corp.’s plan for the Seaport. Image courtesy of Howard Hughes Corp.

Downtown leaders say the city has put the plan to build a 600-foot South Street Seaport tower on hold for now.

“The Howard Hughes Corp. plan to date will not go forward as presented,” Catherine McVay Hughes, Community Board 1’s chairperson, declared Tuesday night at the board’s meeting.

“Any future milestones are on hold until a comprehensive community process has taken place,” added Hughes, who has no connection to the developer.

The corporation announced last November its redevelopment plan to build a tower just outside of the South Street Seaport Historic District and the proposal has drawn vehement opposition in Lower Manhattan.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver confirmed in his written report to the community board Tuesday night the “good news…that the city has now agreed to put those plans on hold.”

Hughes said a “community-driven” task force is being formed to include community board members, Silver, Borough President Gale Brewer and Councilmember Margaret Chin.

In a prepared statement, a Hughes Corp. spokesperson, declared that “the process has not stopped.”

The firm “is continuing to move forward with its proposed plan for the long term revitalization of the Seaport in collaboration with the community and stakeholders.,” according to the statement. “The process has not stopped, and we are discussing the formation of a community advisory board as a continuation of that approach to complete our plans before we begin the upcoming ULURP [land use application] process. As with the redevelopment of … Pier 17, we firmly believe that a collaborative process involving the community and its various stakeholders will result in a plan for the neighborhood that will inspire locals and visitors to return to the Seaport.”

Precisely how the city’s Economic Development Cop., which owns the South Street Seaport, told leaders the plan was on hold is unclear.

Board 1’s Hughes said the message was not delivered directly to her, and a Silver aide indicated that it also did not go to the speaker’s office. Chin’s spokesperson did not comment and a prepared statement by Brewer did not answer the question.

“The Seaport is a priority of this office and I believe that community input is essential to any development there,” Brewer said in her statement. “I am now working with all stakeholders including the community, local electeds and Howard Hughes Corp. to craft and begin such a process and am heartened that the City Economic Development Corporation is working with us to facilitate this.  I am committed to ensuring that the project not move forward until this comprehensive community dialogue has occurred.”

Spokespersons for E.D.C. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Speaker Silver released this statement Wednesday: “I have raised serious concerns, along with local residents, about the proposed development at the South Street Seaport. I have been clear from the beginning that we need to have an open, transparent and community-driven process for redeveloping this area. I am very pleased to join Community Board 1 and my fellow elected officials in serving on this task force, which will ensure that the people who live in the Seaport play a key role in determining the future of this critically important historic area.”

Councilmember Chin released this prepared statement Wednesday afternoon: “The Downtown community has repeatedly called for a community-driven planning process to guide development in the South Street Seaport, and I am working with Community Board 1, local elected officials, the city, neighborhood stakeholders, and the Howard Hughes Corp. to ensure that becomes a reality. We want to make sure any plans moving forward address ongoing concerns and reflect what residents want to see in their community.”

Hughes executives told Downtown Express a few weeks ago that just before Mayor de Blasio took office, his aides told them that the proposal would be better if it included affordable housing.

John Fratta, chairperson of C.B. 1s Seaport Committee, said luxury housing is not the problem with the plan.

“The tower will destroy the whole concept of the Seaport Historic District,” he said. “There is no compromise on the tower if they want to build a tower just find another location.

For many years, he and the rest of C.B. 1 have backed extending the historic district to include the New Market Building, the proposed tower location.