Tower development plans near South Street Seaport district get green light from state Court of Appeals

street view of South Street Seaport during the day
Seaport district.
Google maps

Developers won their bid to build a brand new tower near the historic South Street Seaport district after a legal battle with local advocacy groups.

The New York Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that it will not reconsider an Appellate Court’s ruling in favor of a major development project underway at 250 Water St. in Lower Manhattan. The site is a full-block parking lot owned by real estate development firm, Howard Hughes Holdings, Inc., located just a short walk from the South Street Seaport Museum.  

Howard Hughes Holdings, which purchased the Water Street site in 2018 for $180 million, has been involved in a legal back-and-forth with anti-development advocates who opposed the project, which features plans for an $850 million, 27-story tower, mixed-use development. 

“For too long, the lot at 250 Water Street has been an underutilized part of the Seaport,” said David O’Reilly, chief executive officer of Howard Hughes, on May 21. “Today’s decision marks a major win for Lower Manhattan and the city and paves the way for Seaport Entertainment Group to begin construction on a vibrant, mixed-use project that will be a significant contribution to the neighborhood.” 

Although full-fledged construction is yet to begin, the project broke ground in 2022.



Plans for the site also include 400 market-rate and affordable apartments that will be built above a five-story base with commercial, retail and community space. 

In addition to Tuesday’s court decision, the project also got an extension of the recent 421-a tax exemption, with the company said has “cleared all existing impediments to construction and unlocked tremendous value for Howard Hughes shareholders.” 

According to the firm, Howard Hughes Holdings obtained approvals from NYC’s Landmarks Preservation Commission and the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, which it said included review by Manhattan Community Board 1, Manhattan Borough President, City Planning and the City Council. 

Opponents’ lament

But despite all the official approvals, many residents and advocacy groups opposed the massive development project. 

City Council Member Christopher Marte (D-Manhattan), who represents the areas near the development site, said he is concerned for residents in the area who have been feeling the impact of the just-started project.

“I remain deeply concerned about Howard Hughes Corp.’s development plans at 250 Water St.,” Marte said. “Residents have already begun to feel the impacts of this site, from dust, noise, and even smells raising the alarm about the safety issues brought about by the remediation work.”

Marte added that he will continue to work with neighbors in the area to “make sure” the developers follow the law.

Advocacy group Children First NYC have been vocally opposed to the developing the site, which is located across the street from P.S. 343 The Peck Slip School and Blue School.

At one point last year, the group celebrated a brief victory when Judge Arthur Engoron, of Trump civil trial fame, temporarily blocked the construction. 

Children First is primarily worried about the health hazard of building on soil at the site, which they say has lead, mercury and other harmful toxins. 

“Many of these hazardous materials are known toxins and threaten the health of our children,” the organization posted on its website. “Even tiny exposures can have lifelong developmental effects on children and serious health consequences for adults as well. By digging up the site during the cleanup, hazardous toxic chemicals could easily be released into the air and carried throughout the community.”

According to representatives at Howard Hughes Holdings, the company completed an environmental remediation last year. 

Numerous calls and emails to other agencies including Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine and Manhattan’s Community Board 1 requesting comment were not returned.