Manhattan’s South Street Seaport might look pretty different in a few years if the Howard Hughes Corporation (HHC) moves ahead with its new residential development. The Lower Manhattan historic district could soon have a new 990-foot tower. HHC has hired Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) to master plan a new mixed-use development for the Seaport. The project could feature a new building with four floors of office and retail space topped with a residential tower that could range from 570 to 990 feet at 250 Water Street. The tower could have between 550 and 700 units, 200 of which would be designated affordable housing, following the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing goals of the Department of City Planning and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. “Together with the community, and with the necessary approvals, we have a rare opportunity to bring affordable housing to an area where it’s in short supply,” an HHC spokesperson told AN. “Following the stakeholder workshops, we are continuing to engage with a diverse range of neighbors, businesses, and civic groups as well as elected and government officials as we further develop our plans for the 250 Water site and other district improvements.” The current zoning for the Seaport only allows for 12-story buildings, and the proposal requires Howard Hughes to negotiate the purchase of up to 700,000 square feet of air rights from three surrounding properties with the New York City Economic Development Corporation, as well as complete the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, which ends in a city council vote. This project comes after earlier HHC’s failed attempt at building a 600-foot tower in the neighborhood in 2014. The project was ultimately rejected by the Seaport Working Group, a community task force, for being out of scale with the lower-rise Federal-style brick context. The HHC spokesperson said the company is looking forward to continuing the conversation with the community to create a long-term solution for the neighborhood. “Through our extensive community engagement process, we have been working to generate a planning framework for the Seaport historic district that everyone can get behind.”
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The 670-foot-tall 161 Maiden Lane, a luxury condo tower on the shore of the East River near the South Street Seaport, is leaning. The question of whether contractor Pizzarotti or developer Fortis Property Group is to blame for the 58-story building’s 3-inch lean to the north, however, will be settled by a lawsuit filed with New York State Supreme Court. As first reported by Commercial Observer, Pizzarotti is suing Fortis over their alleged cost-cutting decision to drain and compact the wet soil below the site instead of driving piles before laying the foundation. As a result, the suit alleges that this “soil improvement” decision, made before Fortis was hired for the project in 2015, made completing the project difficult-to-impossible and cost Pizzarotti millions. Apart from the structural issues, Pizzarotti alleges that the two-inch drift in the superstructure from the 11th floor to the 21st prevented the installation of the curtain wall and that Fortis never provided an adequate replacement. Although the tower has topped out and work is still ongoing, Pizzarotti claims that the site is unsafe and that 161 Maiden Lane will continue to settle and shift. If that happens, the facade panels, plumbing, insulation, and elevators may all be risk of failing. Pizzarotti says that they were thus unable to finish working, and submitted their resignation from the project on March 1. Fortis shot back, claiming the leaning problem was the result of Pizzarotti’s concrete subcontractor improperly pouring the slab and failing to take the settling of the soil into account. A Fortis spokesperson also claims that Pizzarotti never terminated their contract and continued working up through this month, casting doubt on their claims that the site was unsafe. The developer went on to say that their new general contractor, Ray Builders, was already at work installing a redesigned version of the curtain wall. Fortis also claims that it has already paid out $25 million to Pizzarotti for cost overruns and that the contractor had caused 260 days of stop-work order-related delays. “This lawsuit is patently false from start to finish and nothing more than simple defamation and a desperate attempt by a failing general contractor to divert attention from the fact it defaulted on yet another New York City project,” said a Fortis spokesman in a statement. “As a number of prominent New York City developers have learned the hard way over the past few years, Pizzarotti is simply incapable of buying out, managing and completing a construction project within contractually promised timelines.” AN will continue to follow this story as it develops.
As summer comes to an end and temperatures begin to drop, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission has approved plans to convert the newly revamped Pier 17 into a rooftop winter village during the colder months. The proposal by Rockwell Group will introduce a warming hut, winter marketplace, and ice rink nearly the size of Rockefeller Center's to the city’s waterfront, making the historic South Street Seaport district a year-round attraction. In recent years, the Seaport has transformed into a lively residential and commercial hub, where residents and visitors have been drawn to the area for its top retail, dining, and cultural attractions, as well as its spectacular views of the Brooklyn Bridge and New York City skyline. The winter wonderland idea originated from the urban ice skating rinks at Rockefeller Center and Bryant Park, which have historically been popular seasonal attractions. The design is further inspired by a set of five different materials that the firm wanted to celebrate in connection with the neighborhood’s rich past as a gateway for international shipping and maritime activities. Those materials include bronze, teak, commercial barrels, cargo units, and ice. While only temporary, the installment will cover over 50 percent of the rooftop of Pier 17, a massive 30,000 square feet. The renovation of Pier 17 and its subsequent winter addition are parts of a larger plan to bring new restaurants, shopping centers, and family-friendly public spaces to a neighborhood that is drenched in history. There is no doubt that Pier 17 will achieve this goal, as it has already helped revive the vibrant and effervescent neighborhood, contributing to Lower Manhattan’s recent evolution into a community that never sleeps. Pier 17’s rooftop is known for hosting several sold-out events ranging from comedy shows to concerts. Still awaiting completion are two restaurants by celebrity chefs David Chang and Andrew Carmellini, as well as a 19,000-square-foot ESPN studio.
Richard Weinstein, an architect whose contributions helped to rethink traditional zoning and urban planning in both New York and Los Angeles, passed on February 24 at the age of 85 from complications related to Parkinson’s disease. Weinstein, a proponent of public-minded urban planning, was known for crafting zoning regulations that were specific to the context of individual neighborhoods rather than conform to a universal template. Weinstein began his academic career in the field of psychology, receiving his B.A from Brown University and an M.A from Columbia. As reported by the New York Times, Weinstein’s professional tenure as a psychologist based in Washington D.C exposed him to the works of Frank Lloyd Wright that dot the capital’s landscape. Spurred by this exposure, Weinstein enrolled in Harvard’s architecture program but ultimately transferred to the University of Pennsylvania, where he received his master’s in 1960. The architect’s planning career began following John V. Lindsay’s successful campaign for mayor in 1965. Under the Lindsay administration, Weinstein served as the director of the Office of Planning and Development for Lower Manhattan and was a founding member of the Urban Design Group, a revolutionary body that embedded architects and planners within city governance and decision-making. With the authority of the mayor’s office, the Urban Design Group negotiated directly with the development community to guide New York towards an inclusive and pluralist policy of urban design. Prior to his involvement with the Lindsay administration, Weinstein worked for the firms of Edward Larrabee Barnes and I.M Pei. Weinstein’s approach to planning is described by UCLA as grounded in the belief that “the city’s mandate was to preserve and enrich the life of the public and cultural street as the city grew taller with private investment,” increased tax revenue was not to be considered a valid exchange for building variances. While working for the Lindsay administration, Weinstein was crucial in the protection of Manhattan’s South Street Seaport, Cass Gilbert’s United States Custom House, and pushed for the creation, and expansion, of the Times Square Historic District. His knowledge of New York's complex system of air rights facilitated economic self-sufficiency for the city's landmarks and simultaneously guided development along predetermined channels Weinstein took up the post of dean of UCLA’s Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning in 1985, a post he held until 1994. He remained at UCLA as a professor of architecture and urban design until 2008. There, his influence on a generation of architects was immeasurable. As Thom Mayne, founder and principal of Morphosis, and a professor of architecture at UCLA, stated, "Richard saw architecture/urbanism as a noble profession with immeasurable potential to shape everyday life, inextricably linked to its social, political and cultural circumstance. We often discussed the seemingly unknowable nature of our profession which only propelled us to stubbornly attempt to achieve the impossible — in every project.” Weinstein is survived by his wife, Edina, and two sons – Nikolas and Alexander.
Manhattan’s New Market building at the South Street Seaport will be demolished, despite the efforts of preservationists to save the historic building. While a 42-story tower designed by SHoP Architects was originally slated to rise on the site, and eventually killed in December 2015, the removal of the New Market building has again raised questions over what will ultimately replace it. Built in 1939 as the last part of the surrounding Fulton Fish Market, the New Market building was designed by architects Albert W. Lewis and John D. Churchill under a commission by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). However, the market has been vacant for years and deteriorated to a point where the city has decided to remove it. When exploratory work for the Howard Hughes Corporation tower took place in 2015, a spokesperson for the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) stated that the entire building was in danger of collapsing due to the decaying piles underneath the market. Although preservation groups such as Save Our Seaport were successful in preventing Howard Hughes’ tower from replacing the New Market, their suggestions appear to have fallen on deaf ears this time. The market isn’t an individual landmark and sits outside of the South Street Seaport historic district, and the city has already removed some of the building’s substructure, citing safety concerns. The timeline put out by the city will see the building fully razed by the fall of this year. Community Board 1 and the EDC have been working together to coordinate the demolition, and some Save Our Seaport members see an ulterior motive behind the market’s removal. The South Street Seaport has been a hotbed of development in recent years, and advocates claim that they were told the New Market was in part being removed to put in a construction crane for the upcoming Tin Building. The Tin Building, as with the Seaport’s cancelled condo tower and forthcoming 300,000-square foot Pier 17 market hall, was also designed by SHoP and developed by Howard Hughes. It remains to be seen how the New Market’s lot will be used after work on the Tin Building is complete, or whether the two companies will have any involvement in the long-term plans for the site.
German architect Achim Menges has designed a canopy for the SHoP Architects–designed Pier 17 at the Seaport District in Manhattan. With a form derived from beetle wings, the canopy will reside on the building's rooftop, replacing a glass pergola that had been nixed by the Landmarks Preservation Committee (LPC). SHoP's initial renderings depicted a lawned roof that people would leisurely enjoy. However, these newer renderings suggest a more intense usage of the space is possible, with large crowds of people gathered under the canopy for casual relaxation and large concerts alike. Indeed, the space has been designed to host up to 4,000 for outdoor movie screenings, tennis matches, art installations, and more. (As we also reported in 2015, when the LPC made the decision to veto the pergola, locals were wary of big crowds flocking to the area for such events.) Menges, who is a professor at Stuttgart University, has drawn inspiration from beetles in the past. The Elytra Filament Pavilion for London's Victoria & Albert Museum derived its shape from "the fibrous structures of the forewing shells of flying beetles known as elytra," and at Pier 17, his work is based around the wing casing of the potato beetle. “It had to be lightweight because it sits on top of a building,” Menges told the New York Times. “But it also had to be strong to stand up to gale force winds.” Like in London, the canopy will be robotically woven. The complex lightweight structure will be composed of glass and carbon fibers. Embedded within will be lights that illuminate the structure, making it clearly visible from the water's edge, and particularly the Brooklyn Bridge—a landmark that Menges also used to inform his design. In 2015, neighbors also voiced concerns that the pergola would block views of the Brooklyn Bridge. According to SHoP, the 250,000-square-foot, $200 million Pier 17 is to be finished in 2018. (However, SHoP is not directly involved with the design of Menges's canopy.)
This is the ninth in a series of guests posts that feature Archtober Building of the Day tours! Schermerhorn Row is a complex of buildings that many of us have walked by or perhaps been inside on a shopping expedition to the South Street Seaport. One may recognize the silhouette of the building and sailing ship in the South Street Seaport Museum’s iconic logo, designed by Chermayeff and Geismar. According to William Roka, historian for the Seaport Museum, the buildings built between 1810 to 1812 comprised of a row of speculative counting houses built by Peter Schermerhorn, a descendant of an important Dutch family instrumental in founding New Amsterdam. Roka provided an interesting and thorough historical context to what he describes as one of New York’s most important building. How is it that this significant landmark, hidden in plain sight, is not more familiar to New Yorkers and their guests alike? Schermerhorn Row has been described as New York’s first world trade center. Peter Schermerhorn was at the right place at the right time to develop a water lot by extending landfill into the East River. He built a warehouse of sorts adjacent to the burgeoning maritime trade just prior to the establishment of a market and ferry named after Robert Fulton. Considered a large building in its day, it served merchants who would handle cargo and account for the taxes and tariffs ascribed to goods moving in and out of the port. The merchant class of New York City nurtured their wealth here and moved to places like Washington Square to live a peaceful life at the edge of a bustling port town. The tour brought us to the upper floors of one of the counting houses where a display of hundred of tools spoke immediately to the human hand in every aspect of labor—on ships and in buildings like Schermerhorn Row. Brute force and rudimentary use of mechanical advantage lessened the burden of lifting, pulling, hauling. In an adjoining counting house, an array of architectural artifacts and archaeological remains suggest a story of simple materials use practically, underscoring the hand-crafted (early nails and bricks were made by hand and used in the building of Schermerhorn Row) nature of architecture in the early days of the nineteenth century. There are few examples of this mercantile typology and hand-wrought technology left in New York City. The highlight of the tour was learning about New York’s early venture into adaptive reuse: Walking the halls of a counting house-turned-hotel where one witnesses airless and lightless rooms that seem cruel and unusual to our modern standards of space and cleanliness. Roca walked us through the rise and fall of the port and Schermerhorn Row. Thankfully, the New Jersey portion of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey nixed the idea of developing the new World Trade Center on a gigantic parcel of land from Wall Street to the Brooklyn Bridge. Grassroots movements and the newly established Landmarks Preservation Commission helped declare 12 blocks surrounding Schermerhorn Row as the South Street Seaport Historic District in 1977. Stay tuned for upcoming tours of Schermerhorn Row as the Seaport Museum brings more of its collection into public view. About the author: Tim Hayduk is the Lead Design Educator at the Center for Architecture. He began teaching about the built environment at South Street Seaport nearly 15 years ago. Tim has a strong affection for the Seaport District and the history that is told through its bricks, mortar, streetscapes, vessels, and people.
This past Tuesday, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) unanimously approved developer Howard Hughes’ plan to convert the landmarked South Street Seaport Tin Building—which most recently housed the Fulton Fish Market until 2005—into a seafood market headed by chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. The developer, who hired New York City-based SHoP Architects, is expected to move the building approximately 18 feet south and restore damage sustained during the 2012 Hurricane Sandy and a fire in 1995. “The move is being carried out for several reasons, according to the developer. First, it will allow them to make the building more flood resilient,” says Curbed New York. “Second it will be moved slightly away from the FDR Drive. This will no longer obstruct the view of the building, and the increased plaza space in front will make it more appealing to customers.” Last spring, Crain’s New York Business reported that emails sent between city officials revealed talk of demolishing the Tin Building and the nearby New Market Building due to deteriorating piles. Controversy continues to surround South Street Seaport: construction is well underway on the 250,00-square-foot Pier 17 retail and rooftop park project, also developed by Hughes, designed by SHoP, but the subject of Landmark Commission modifications. As cities face growing populations and neighborhoods hold increasing quantities of older building stock, preservationists and developers will continue to butt heads over oftentimes differing definitions of value. Some cities favor the revived practice of façadism as a happy medium that preserves the shells of lower story buildings while allowing for new, larger developments above. Yet others see this trend as an inauthentic compromise that inadequately speaks to the nature and scale of these historic structures.
On October 20, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) approved the Howard Hughes Corporation and SHoP Architects' re-visioning of the South Street Seaport's Pier 17—with one crucial change. The developers will comply with the LPC's request to remove a glass pergola shading the rooftop lawn. The 250,000-square-foot, $200 million Pier 17 retail mall and public space is the anchor of the Seaport makeover. Though the LPC approved the design in 2013 (and construction has begun), the LPC review last week was precipitated by the addition of the pergola and the demolition of the adjacent Link Building, two unapproved aspects of the initial development plan. When the pier plan was introduced in August, the LPC raised concerns about the pergola. Neighbors' fears were classic NIMBY: residents worried that covering the lawn would draw bigger crowds to the Seaport's popular concerts and events. Though the LPC can't regulate city vistas, neighbors also voiced concerns that the pergola would block views of the Brooklyn Bridge. Now, residents will enjoy unobstructed—or at least less obstructed—views of the bridge, as well the last coup from the LPC meeting: modified paving on the site's access road. The road is an extension of Fulton Street that will encircle the front of the pier. Instead of asphalt, visitors will tread on precast concrete pavers. Though the Pier 17 deal seems like a relatively utopian public-private compromise, controversy over the overall development looms. Neighbors and preservationists have greeted SHoP's planned, 42 story, 500 tower with vociferous opposition. While the tower is not in a historic district, and thus outside the LPC's purview, the community continues to debate the project. Another major (and potentially contentious) project in the area is the S. Russell Groves–designed, 60 story skyscraper at 151 Maiden Lane, announced in September. The typology of the South Street Seaport reflects its status as one of New York's oldest districts. Like all historic neighborhoods, it must contend with the priorities of a densifying city. It remains to be seen how SHoP's plan, and other nearby redevelopments, impact the district's function and character.
On September 17th, New York artists, architects, and designers gathered in lower Manhattan to celebrate the newly anointed South Street Seaport Culture District. Conceived by The Howard Hughes Corporation (the Seaport's primary developer), exhibitions by the AIANY's Center for Architecture, the Guggenheim, No Longer Empty, and Eyebeam, among others, created programming in spaces damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The installations were complemented by live music, and food by Smorgasburg. James Sanders (of JS + A Studio) curated the event. Often maligned by New Yorkers for its tourist sensibilities, The Howard Hughes Corporation counters this perception by positioning the Seaport as a "cultural incubator," a destination for the arts that draws on the area's singular role in the city's economic and maritime history. At 181 Front Street, AIANY curated Sea Level: Five Boroughs at Water's Edge. The exhibition featured Elizabeth Fellicela's panoramic photographs taken on the riverfronts, inlets, and coastlines of New York City. Select images are paired with essays by urbanist and author Robert Sullivan. AIGA/NY curated an exhibition at 192 Front Street that focuses on the iterative nature of design across disciplines. No Longer Empty, a public art organization that curates temporary, site-specific installations in vacant spaces, commissioned Teresa Diehl: Breathing Waters, an immersive installation that draws on the Seaport's location near the confluence of the East and Hudson rivers. Visitors meander through curtains of water droplets fashioned from clear resin, lulled into a meditative state by the projections and sounds meant to simulate submergence. The South Street Culture District is part of The Howard Hughes Corporation's larger development vision for the area. The developers will invest approximately $1.5 billion to build up the South Street Seaport, and adjacent Pier 17, for residential and commercial use. Plans have met with fierce opposition from community groups and preservationists who claim the proposed developments are out of scale with the neighborhood. The events and exhibitions may not mollify opponents of the redevelopment, but they do provide a valuable public platform for the art and architecture in lower Manhattan. Programming at the Seaport runs through December 31st, 2015.
Last night, at 6:00p.m. sharp, Community Board 1’s Landmarks Committee kicked off a public hearing on the Howard Hughes Corporation’s controversial plans to remake New York City's South Street Seaport. The event was held at St. Paul’s Chapel in Lower Manhattan and it was standing room only before anybody got up to the mic. By five after, people waiting on the chapel steps were being turned away. At first glance, the huge crowd makes sense. Since Howard Hughes first unveiled its plan to build a luxury tower next to the Seaport last year, local residents have been showing up in large numbers to meetings like this to voice their opposition. This event also comes shortly after Howard Hughes unveiled its revised Seaport plan: a shorter, SHoP-designed tower and more perks for the community. To many local residents and elected officials, though, that wasn’t enough. Tensions are still high and the developer is still pushing forward, so the turnout isn’t a big surprise. But there was something noticeably different about last night’s crowd, and it didn’t take long to figure out what it was. More than half the people packed into St. Paul’s pews were wearing the same blue or yellow t-shirt that said “SEE / CHANGE” and “Howard Hughes is committed to saving the Seaport Museum.” Some of this t-shirt-wearing contingent said they worked for Howard Hughes and were there to show their support. Others said they were residents or small business owners and wanted the plan to move forward. But that wasn’t everybody. Someone simply said his boss told him to show up. He declined to identify his boss or what line of work he was in, but admitted he didn’t live in the neighborhood. The same thing goes for another non-Seaport resident who said his boss—who has work relating to the Seaport—asked him to show up as a favor. Two men standing in the chapel’s balcony said they signed a petition and kind of just made their way into the event, one of the two worked Downtown. A young guy, maybe in his early 20s, said he was being paid to get people to sign those pro-Seaport petitions; yesterday, he said, was his first day on the job. Some people wouldn't answer the “why are you here?” question at all; others said they didn't really care if the tower got built or not. As for the event itself, SHoP walked through its updated plans, and things played out on familiar lines. Those who support the plan still support it, and those who don’t, don’t. The crowd was obviously heavily tilted toward the former. When SHoP partner Gregg Pasquarelli mentioned his firm's attention to historic detail, the crowd erupted in applause. It wasn’t until about 6:45 that people waiting outside were allowed into the event. An hour or so later, the crowd was thinning out and the blue and yellow shirts could be heard making plans to meet up at the event’s “after party" that included free ice skating, drinks, and food. That party was held at a South Street Seaport bar and actually started before the hearing even ended. When AN walked by, bartenders—decked out in yellow t-shirts—could be seen passing beers to their patrons who were wearing the very same thing. The crowd was small at that point, but the party hadn’t officially started yet—there was still half an hour of public hearing left. “A broad array of supporters including local residents, small business owners, and members of the labor and business community turned out in force last night to speak out in favor of the proposed plan for the Seaport," said a spokesperson for the Howard Hughes Corporation in an email. "In fact, a recent poll shows that over 84 percent of Lower Manhattan residents support the redevelopment plan for the Seaport District. To thank supporters for taking time out of their evening, The Howard Hughes Corporation held a skate party at the Seaport Ice Rink.” That poll was commissioned by Howard Hughes.
[ Editor's Note: The following letter was left in the comments section of archpaper.com in response to Alan G. Brake’s editorial “The Seaport Adrift” (AN 09_07.23.2014), which argued for more programming at Manhattan’s South Street Seaport, such as housing. Opinions expressed in letters to the editor do not necessarily reflect the opinions or sentiments of the newspaper. AN welcomes reader letters, which could appear in our regional print editions. To share your opinion, please email email@example.com. ] How would adding housing help connect the building to its surroundings? The seaport is inherently a destination for most of the people who use it. The pop-up food market was perhaps the best-suited program for the site. New York needs places where we feel we can escape the jungle and design doesn’t necessarily help. Why would I need a modern esplanade or a tower on the waterfront? All people really want to do is sit by the dock, look at the boats, and eat something of questionable nutritional value. Andrew Wild Card CUNY Macaulay Honors College