The South Street Seaport has been named one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Places according the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Since 1988, the National Trust has used this campaign to raise awareness about the threats facing some of the nation’s greatest treasures.
The South Street Seaport is a designated NYC Historic District and is considered the first World Trade Center, as it was NYC’s birth place of commerce.
Located just steps from the skyscrapers of Lower Manhattan, the seaport is a neighborhood of early 19th century commercial buildings. The centerpiece of the district is Schermerhorn Row, built in 1810-12, which represents the earliest commercial-style architecture in New York and houses the South Street Seaport Museum. On the water, this neighborhood boasts historic ships and the Tin and New Market Buildings, all of which create a sense of the city’s maritime past.
These buildings, piers and docks that comprise the Seaport are owned by the City of New York’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC). Citizens have the right to help determine their future as it is not private property. Despite this, the area is threatened by insensitive proposals for development by the lease-holder, Texas-based developer Howard Hughes Corporation (HHC). Despite years of feedback from elected officials, Manhattan Community Board 1, advocacy organizations and residents, HHC has not revealed their entire plan for public comment. Part of the plan shown on official corporate renderings display a skyscraper on the site of the New Market Building, neon lighting underneath the FDR, and the Tin Building altered to a market building.
The results of this plan are a skyscraper that blocks views of the Brooklyn Bridge; neon lighting throughout the district which is garish and confusing; Schermerhorn Row gutted for housing; and the Tin Building irreparably altered (if not downright demolished) to exploit its full commercial potential.
In May 2015, EDC, citing structural issues, announced it would demolish portions of the only historic market buildings left in the Seaport and that the public should accept a “plan” from the developer to save them. HHC has not presented to the public regarding any plan since December, 2014. What’s more is that the plan presented this past winter was misleading: the public was only allowed to comment on specific components, but not the tower. As the public and City agencies await the newest proposal for public property from the private developer, the market buildings and all City-owned assets in the Seaport are allowed to crumble.
Read Charles Bagli’s article in The New York Times
To learn more about local efforts to save the Seaport visit:
Photo: The South Street Seaport, circa 1979. Building in the center (waterside) is the landmark Tin Building. White building (to the right) is the unprotected New Market Building (photo from the Library of Congress).