Hughes firm shaves Seaport Tower ‘down’ to just under 500 feet

BY JOSH ROGERS  (Updated at 11 p.m.  Nov. 19, 2014 with more details)| Howard Hughes Corporation shaved about 150 feet off its proposed South Street Seaport tower, well short of what opponents were hoping for from the long-awaited revisions to the firm’s South Street Seaport development plan.

“I question whether the proposal from Howard Hughes for a huge tower on the New Market site meets the Seaport Working Group’s guidelines developed over many months of discussion with the community, urban planners and other stakeholders,” Gale Brewer, Manhattan’s borough president, said in a prepared statement released for publication Wednesday night at 7 p.m. roughly the time Hughes’ private meeting with her and the rest of the Seaport Working Group was scheduled to end.

The height of the new design is 494 feet. The original tower height was always somewhat fuzzy, but Chris Curry, the Hughes executive claimed it was 600 feet in a Downtown Express interview back in January. A source sympathetic to the developer said that the original figure was really 650 feet.

“Our plan preserves the historic district, repairs crumbling infrastructure and delivers the benefits the community has called for: waterfront access, a middle school that could also serve as a community center, affordable housing, funding to save the Seaport Museum and tall ships, and a fresh food market, among other things,” David Weinreb, Hughes’ C.E.O. said in a prepared statement. “The plan represents a more than $300 million investment in public benefits for Lower Manhattan, driven by the economic engine of a new residential building. We are proud to have the support of Lower Manhattan families and small business owners who know that the only way to truly save the South Street Seaport is to invest in its future.  We are confident that as more residents learn about our plan, they will embrace it.”

The working group had been waiting since June for the firm’s revisions after it released its guidelines and principles, which called for an alternative to the tower.

“Historical context, building heights, and maintaining the vitality of the area are all elements which must be factored in to any final project in this crucial Manhattan neighborhood — the neighborhood where, in many ways, New York City began,” Brewer’s statement continued. “As I’ve said before, building a tower at the South Street Seaport is like building a tower at Colonial Williamsburg.

“Councilmember [Margaret] Chin and I have requested that the Seaport Working Group convene a meeting right after Thanksgiving to discuss the H.H.C. proposal presented tonight and evaluate it against the guidelines and principles the working group developed. I will withhold final judgment until after discussion by the working group.”

Chin released this statement Wednesday night: “Unfortunately, it’s clear that the Howard Hughes Corporation has not fully considered all of the guidelines put forth by the Seaport Working Group. I can’t support the proposed tower in its current form, and I can’t support the development proposal overall in its current form. There’s still a lot of work to be done to make sure this plan truly serves the Seaport community, and we must strongly consider alternatives to the proposed tower. I look forward to continuing the discussion with Howard Hughes, the Mayor’s office and Borough President Brewer and the other members of the Seaport Working Group, as we seek to protect the uniquely historic nature of the Seaport, while also creating a vibrant community for residents, visitors and local workers.”

Spokespersons for the city’s Economic Development Corp., which manages the city-owned property, have not responded to any questions Wednesday.

The new plan includes about 65 apartments, 30 percent of the proposed housing, will be below market rate. The plan also includes a middle school at the tower’s base.

“Our plan preserves the historic district, repairs crumbling infrastructure and delivers the benefits the community has called for: waterfront access, a middle school that could also serve as a community center, affordable housing, funding to save the Seaport Museum and tall ships, and a fresh food market, among other things,” David Weinreb, Hughes’ C.E.O., said in a prepared statement. “The plan represents a more than $300 million investment in public benefits for Lower Manhattan…. We are proud to have the support of Lower Manhattan families and small business owners who know that the only way to truly save the South Street Seaport is to invest in its future.  We are confident that as more residents learn about our plan, they will embrace it.”

Before being built the plan would need to receive Landmarks Preservation Corp. approval. Brewer and Community Board 1 would make a formal advisory opinion before it would go to Chin and her Council colleagues for an up or down vote.

But given the first negative reaction there’s likely to be more revisions to come.

Look for more details on this breaking story in the days to follow.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *