In June 2018, the Howard Hughes Corp. (HHC) bought the 250 Water St. site (currently a parking lot) that lies within the South Street Seaport Historic District, and comes with landmark district protection and a contextual zoning height limit of 120 feet.+ After years of a segmented development approach, HHC – with visions of a tower soaring skyward over the Seaport – now decided that it was time to engage the community in its master planning for the Seaport. To buy support for a tower on the 250 Water St. site, HHC was ready with offers of any number of the usual public benefits in exchange. In late summer 2018, preservation advocates, Seaport area residents, and parents and representatives of nearby schools came together over concerns regarding the development of the 250 Water St. site and the surrounding Seaport area, and the current Seaport Coalition was formed. With the future of public assets again at stake, coalition members decided that the public should be the ones guiding public asset development, not filtered through a developer’s private agenda. This led to the release in November 2019 of the Seaport Coalition Strategic Plan. The plan draws on and incorporates elements of a long history of advocacy for the Seaport as an invaluable public asset, with the bottom line for 250 Water St – 120 ft. HHC had a tower in its hands after it assembled its 80 South St Development Site in 2014-15. In 2016, it let it slip away, sold to another developer. Some pages from the Seaport Coalition Plan are attached.
City of Water Day, July 13, 2019 – the City’s waterfronts were bustling on this hot summer Saturday. The Con Edison Cardboard Kayak Race took place at Manhattan’s Brooklyn Bridge Beach after teams put together what they hoped would be seaworthy vessels. Once again, the event provided the public with the opportunity to walk on the sand near the water’s edge – promoting access that advocates have long fought for. At the historic Seaport, displays emphasized the importance of protecting our waters – from reestablishing oyster beds in the rivers (Billion Oyster Project) to replacing plastic water bottles with eco-friendly ‘Boxed Water’. [event supported by South St. Seaport Museum, Waterfront Alliance, Con Edison, Howard Hughes Corp., and others – see cityofwaterday.org]
In design, the New Market is purely functional, but in its simplicity and vast interior space lies endless possibility for reimagining it for a new public purpose that honors its Seaport history. To insure that the site remains in the pubic domain, and does not become a pawn in private development bargaining for control and development of historic Seaport assets, reach out to your elected officials and make your voice heard.
Public access to Manhattan’s Brooklyn Bridge Beach on July 14, 2018 proved that public use is both feasible, and what the public wants.