After two very lengthy meetings, Community Board 1's Special Landmarks Committee has finally summed up its feelings about the Howard Hughes Corporation's proposal for the South Street Seaport. The result of this exercise in verbosity was mixed, endorsing some parts of the proposal, but nixing a lot. However, the committee doesn't have a say over the most controversial piece of the redevelopment plan, that 494-foot-tall mixed-used tower, as it sits outside the historic district. So, the committee's resolution asks the Landmarks Preservation Commission to extend the historic district boundaries to include the New Market Building, which would be demolished to make way for the tower.
As for the items that will go before the LPC, let's start with the Tin Building. The proposal is to dismantle the current building and construct a new building 30 feet east, which will use the canopy supports and front columns from the current Tin Building. The committee supported the move of the Tin Building, but not the one-story addition, which Chris Curry of Hughes said would be used for "cultural space," but the LPC doesn't care about use, so that's a moot point.
While construction of the new mall on Pier 17 is already underway, the new proposal to put a canopy made of steel and the material ETFE over the field on the roof needs to be approved by the LPC to go forward. The draft resolution was actually against the canopy, but the committee was convinced to support it. There was concern over how much of the year the roof would be open to the public and how often it would be rented for private events like concerts. Curry said some of the space would always be open. Again, the LPC can't govern use. They could say the design is not contextual, but it was hard to argue that the proposed canopy clashes with the building below it. A few additional notes on the roof: SHoP Architects' Partner Gregg Pasquarelli noted that there would be no heat gain from the canopy and that it doesn't yellow over time. Also, the field would be an artificial surface, which Curry said would make it more flexible when it comes to different uses.
The plan calls for another canopy that would connect the Tin Building and Pier 17 to provide protection from the elements for pedestrians, but the committee did not support it, in part because it would obscure the views, particularly of the ships to the south.
The demolition of the Link Building, a narrow building that runs alongside Pier 17 and the Tin Building, was easily supported.
What to do about the situation under the FDR Drive? Add lighting and pavilions to make the place more friendly? Not if this committee has its way.
The proposal calls for a small new building to be constructed on Pier 16 for the use of the South Street Seaport Museum. The committee could not support that since there is still no concrete plan for the museum's future.
Curry again stressed that the museum would have all of the space it needs inside the historic former hotels of Schermerhorn Row, but that the rest of the row and a new building on the John Street lot would be for affordable housing. The committee welcomes affordable housing, but still wants a solid plan from the museum. Also, the committee called for changing the exterior of the new building from terra cotta to real brick.
The proposal includes nine wayfinding signs and wrapping of the columns that support the FDR Drive. The draft resolution was not in favor of the signs, but a pointing out of their ubiquitousness turned the committee around. However, they could not support the decorative wrapping of the FDR Drive columns.
The resolution also opposes the extension of Fulton Street and Beekman Street that would wrap around in between the new Tin Building and the new Pier 17 mall.
The resolution was passed 10 to zero and goes on to the meeting of CB1's full board on Monday, January 26 at 6:00 p.m. at P.S. 89 at 201 Warren Street. The result of that meeting will determine the recommendation sent to the LPC.
—Evan Bindelglass is a local freelance journalist, photographer, cinephile, and foodie. You can e-mail him, follow him on Twitter @evabin, or check out his personal blog.
· All Landmarks Preservation coverage [Curbed]
· All South Street Seaport coverage [Curbed]