One of the most controversial developments in Lower Manhattan got a big thumbs up from the Landmarks Preservation Commission on Tuesday. The LPC approved the Howard Hughes Corporation plan for Pier 17 at the South Street Seaport, which includes demolition of the Link Building. A big point of contention when the plan was presented in August was a proposed rooftop pergola. With that removed, commission approval was a snap. Tuesday’s presentation also revealed some new renderings of the site.
The presentation on Tuesday was so succinct that architect Gregg Pasquarelli of SHoP and Hughes’ Chris Curry didn’t even need to address the commissioners after the project’s introduction by LPC staff. The new Pier 17 mall is the centerpiece of the Hughes plan for the Seaport. In fact, construction is already under way, with a design having been approved by the LPC in 2013. That did not include the proposed pergola or demolition of the Link Building, which is not historic and not considered as being contributing to the special character of the South Street Seaport Historic District. In the past year of hearings before Community Board 1, its committees, and the LPC, demolition of the Link Building has not been considered particularly controversial.
Members of the community feared that the pergola would mean even more concerts and other loud events that would disturb the neighborhood. They also decried how the new Pier 17 building would block the view of the Brooklyn Bridge. The LPC does not have the power to regulate use or viewsheds. Still, public opposition seemed too much for Hughes and the company dropped its plan for the pergola.
Another change from August is the access road, which essentially is an extension of Fulton Street and then wraps around in front of Pier 17. At that time, it was proposed to be asphalt. Now it will be precast concrete pavers.
The removal of the pergola (which comes with a reduced height for the screen around the rooftop mechanical equipment) and change in access road material delighted the commissioners. LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan said the proposal had “come a long way” and called the new access road material “much more pedestrian.” Commissioner Frederick Bland joked that the people even looked happier in the after renderings (though they are, in fact, the exact same people).
This is not the end of controversy surrounding this project. Hughes wants a high-rise residential tower on the site of the New Market Building. Though it won’t go before the LPC (it sits outside the historic district), it is proposed to be 42-stories-tall, and that’s too much for the NIMBYs. Further aspects of the project that will go before the Landmarks Preservation Commission include the reconstruction (and relocation) of the Tin Building and a plan to put affordable housing on Schermerhorn Row, which currently houses the South Street Seaport Museum. Stay tuned.