On the Waterfront

While the neighborhood around South Street Seaport is rapidly changing, the company that operates the mall there is taking its time to develop plans to connect the complex with the rest of Manhattan. The operator,General Growth Properties, hired Sharples Holden Pasquarelli (SHoP Architects) to develop a masterplan for making the Seaport more compelling to locals, citywide shoppers, and tourists. SHoP (along with the Richard Rogers Partnership) is also working for General Growthhs landlord, the city, to implement a plan that will turn the waterfront north of the Seaport into a major new park. The other major change that has made the area more attractive for development was the Fulton Fish Marketts 2005 move to Huntts Point in the Bronx.

Pasquarelli told AN that his firmms work for both clients aims to make the South Street waterfront more accessible and further open its views to the Brooklyn Bridge..We have spent three years working with the community and are trying to make sure that any [mall] proposal complements and hopefully even solves some issues with the esplanade..He added that preserving the current three-story mall remains a distinct possibility.

But some community residents worry that the private operator will try to cash in on the public improvements at South Street by creating a condo or a hotel.That was clear at General Growthhs scheduled February 27 presentation to a Seaport subcommittee of Community Board 1.While presenting the many concepts currently under study, Pasquarelli and others found themselves defending their work to the often hostile crowd of more than 100 people.

Pasquarelliis presentation stressed Pier177s current disconnect from the street grid..You get to Fulton and Water [streets], and you cannt see the historic ships,, he said. The ideas he presented included restoring the rotting piers under the three idle Fish Market buildings and moving one, the 1907 Tin Building, to line up Beekman Street with waterfront access. But meeting attendees dwelled on a single slide that showed how shrinking the mallls footprint to create a slender tower would open more of the pier.Many charged that the operator secretly plans to sell condos without providing parks and schools. General Growth representative Michael McNaughton insisted that any redesign would enhance the community..This is the beginning of a process,, he said. Pasquarelli echoed this, saying that there were at least 25 plans under discussion, and many more months of design research.

Many groups want to influence the process: Preservationists want to refurbish the South Street Seaport Museum and its historic vessels.And the Drawing Center, which was originally slated for the cultural institution lineup at Ground Zero, is one of many nonprofit organizations that have expressed interest in using the site.

And New York City, as owner of the underlying piers,will scrutinize any decision on aesthetic and contextual grounds..The city would seek improved access to the waterfront and development that enhances the unique historic waterfront and important views,, said a city planning spokesperson. This means balancing residentss views with those available to visitors.

ALEC APPELBAUM

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