Corporate Welfare – alive and well in NYC’s Historic South Street Seaport ? In a deceptively worded promise of a $50 million contribution to save the South Street Seaport Museum – an amount that was never going to come out of the Howard Hughes Corp.(HHC)’s corporate pockets, and in a craftily worded offer of including affordable housing units – touted as bringing the first in Lower Manhattan under the City’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) program – which was never going to be governed and controlled though that City program, but as all learned, HHC was going to “abide” by its terms, HHC weaved its public relations message of how allowing it to build an out-of-scale tower in the Seaport Historic District was the only way for the City to reap so many benefits. Our term-limited local elected officials – Manh. Borough President Brewer, and City Council Member Chin – easily bought in, as the developer proceeded to make city agency representatives ( from the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the Office of the Deputy Mayor, the City Planning Commission, the NYC Economic Development Corp.) – all feel part of a team that would come to see HHC’s proposed tower as acceptable in the special low-scale historic Seaport.
Seen circling the Historic South Street Seaport – and on May 4, 2021, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) let them out.
As we fight to save the Historic South Street Seaport District from an outlandish and arrogant proposal by the Howard Hughes Corp. (HHC), we go directly to the source for advice. And we can’t help but notice, some past voices are noticeable absent in this current battle. Oct 2008: Margaret Chin, at a CB1 meeting regarding the Howard Hughes Corp.’s predecessor General Growth Properties’ plan for a tower over the New Market site – “It just doesn’t fit. It just doesn’t look right…. People come down to the Seaport because of its history. A 40-story tower has no place in the Seaport.” Tellyingly, it was said when she was trying to get elected to the City Council; and the GGP tower was provoking enormous community backlash at the time. Though the comment was made in regard to the GGP plan, it is still very relevant today to 250Water – which is very much ” in the Seaport” And from NYC Borough President Gail Brewer: “As I’ve said before, building a tower at the South Street Seaport is like building a tower at Colonial Williamsburg.“
HHC is now in full public relations mode to overcome Seaport advocates’ unwillingness to accept HHC’s false premise that the only way to save one public asset is to sacrifice another: HHC’s offer of Seaport Museum funding, for a carve-out to HHC of almost 10% the historic district for a tower that doesn’t belong there, and would set a bad precedent for not only the Seaport but other protected areas.
HHC’s internal document reveals intent to use the Seaport Museum as “political cover” and sell 250Water.