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.
The Howard Hughes Corp. (HHC) held 3 stakeholder workshops between Sept 2019 and March 2020 where it presented its privately-owned 250 Water St site as an opportunity for all sorts of community benefits, if only the community could be persuaded to trade off long-standing historic district protections so that HHC could build a tower within the Seaport. But spanning the same period that HHC was promoting its public plan, it was presenting an internal budget document to its NY Region – Oct 2019 – which reveals a different plan to sell 250 Water – as soon as 2022. As a key slide shows, if HHC is able to get pre-build entitlements needed for a tower, it intends to sell 250 Water – as soon as 2022, leaving the fate of an actual build to another developer. The Seaport Coalition – an alliance of several groups that came together in 2019 around plans for yet another inappropriate build in the historic South St Seaport – held a public meeting on Sept. 17, 2020 (via Zoom) to provide an update on key events that have taken place over the course of the covid lockdown, centered around issues that HHC’s plans for 250 Water brought to the fore. The full presentation provided an update on the Brownfield cleanup of the toxic wastes under 250 Water St; issues around air rights; the city required steps that the developer must follow in its attempt to gain approvals for a tower on the site; what the coalition has been doing to protect the seaport from inappropriate development; and how the public can help.
In its latest quest for a Seaport tower, the Howard Hughes Corp. (HHC) – in addition to promising all sorts of community benefits – is promoting a visual narrative that would, in its words, connect the historic Seaport with the rest of lower Manhattan.