HHC: Obstructionists Losing in Efforts to Stop Seaport Progress
The post Obstructionists Losing in Efforts to Stop Seaport Progress appeared first on ValuePlays.
Give this a read through and think about. I’ll post my comments throughout..
SOUTH STREET SEAPORT — Local preservationists have accused the city and the Howard Hughes Corporation of allowing two historic Fulton Fish Market warehouses to fall into disrepair as an easy means to justify tearing them down.
The abandoned New Market Building and Tin Building, which is landmarked, will each have a portion of their structure torn down by the city — because they are in “danger of collapse,” Economic Development Corporation spokeswoman Kelly Magee said.
The sudden news of the what the city calls “emergency work” — first reported by Crain’s — came as a shock to community leaders and activists, who have long fought to preserve those buildings.
Several preservationists point to a 2010 EDC inspection obtained by DNAinfo New York that detailed the decay of the buildings, and determined that more than $10 million was need to repair the buildings. Those repairs were never made.
“I see it as benign neglect,” said Michael Kramer, a Community Board 1 member and member of the preservationist group Save Our Seaport. “The city has put no money into these buildings, and allowed them to deteriorate — they knew they were decaying and now they have to demolish.”
Well, of course no one has put any money into them. Why? Every single attempt to do anything with them has been met by opposition by Kramer and his ilk. GGP tried to do something with the area and HHC has been trying since they were spun from GGP in 2010. EVERY single effort has been met with a “no” from preservationists. What would be the point of a developer or the city putting a dime into them when each attempt to do something substantial to the area is met with opposition? Why would the city plow $10M into the building just to stabilize the pier when there was no concrete plan in place as to what would eventually happen to the buildings? It would be an irresponsible waste of taxpayer dollars to do otherwise.
Now, had these folks actually worked with instead of obstructed every effort to improve the Seaport, perhaps there would have been a plan in place at which point the city would have looked at it and decided making the investment was a wise decision.
What about the developers? Should they be required to plow millions into deteriorating buildings with no idea if that investment would ever see a return? Who do these “preservationists” think they are? What gives them the right to demand millions of dollars of public or private investment without giving some type of assurance to those entities making that investment that the money would not be completely wasted? It is a stunning display of entitlement and lack of respect for property rights. HHC OWNS that land. For these people to dictate a massive investment without any consideration is unconscionable.
Like I recently said, the true irony is that had these folks even been the least bit cooperative over the last few years, the tin building would already be being restored by HHC, they’d be getting both the middle school, the market and affordable housing they desperately need there and the Seaport area would be materially improved. However, their patent blind opposition to any sort of progress ensured what they wanted to avoid, the unavoidable destruction of the buildings……
The city is planning the partial demolition of each building’s “cooler” areas — sheds that run along the backs of the structures — for later this summer. If it’s determined by structural engineers that the buildings remain unsound, the warehouses may have to be completely torn down. Any demolition will need approval from city and state agencies, Magee said.
For some local activists, the seemingly abrupt action seems part of a larger problem — a lack of transparency when it comes to the redevelopment of the Seaport.
The warehouses, relics of the Seaport’s fish mongering days, sit at the base of Pier 17, which is being completely rebuilt by the Howard Hughes Corporation and will be redeveloped into a sleek, glass outdoor mall.
The Hughes Corporation also has plans, which have not gone through the city land approval process yet, to build a massive, controversial luxury tower where one of the warehouses, the New Market Building, now sits.
While the New Market Building would be torn down as part of the company’s proposed redevelopment, the company said they would preserve the Tin Building — but they would move it about 30 feet from where it now sits, taking it out from underneath the FDR Drive. The company declined to comment about whether the city’s actions would affect their plans to move the Tin Building.
One group, the Friends of the South Street Seaport, said they fear that the work on Pier 17 has led, in part, to the unsound state of the fish market buildings. They recently sent a letter to the Army Corp of Engineers, asking for oversight and review of the Pier 17 complex.
The group said they were “objecting to back-room bait-and-switch tactics that routinely bypass legally required consultation and permitting processes.”
For activists to call this a “lack of transparency” is on its face, laughable. There have been countless public meetings over the past few years it and they have included members of all areas of local government. The process has been painfully transparent with anyone having an opinion given time to talk at these meetings. Here is the bottom line. People knew the buildings and their pier needed investment or they were at risk of being in the state they currently are. Rather than work on that and move forward, activist continued to stonewall. So, now you are where we are now. This isn’t a case of “back room decisions”, it is simply a case of people refusing to see reality and a small group of very vocal self interested people putting their own agenda ahead of what is best for the entire Seaport.
Howard Hughes Corporation calls those claims “simply wrong on the facts.”
“The Howard Hughes Corporation is currently constructing its [Uniform Land Use Review Process] approved Pier 17 project and all of its construction activities are being conducted with the necessary permits from the appropriate governmental agencies,” Chris Curry, senior executive of development for HHC said in an emailed statement. “[The buildings and Pier 17 project] are not on the same structure and there is not an integrated piling infrastructure. There has been no impact on those structures from the Pier 17 work.”
A variety of community groups, including Community Board 1, the New York Landmarks Conservancy, Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, the Historic Districts Council and Save Our Seaport recently also recently sent a letter to the mayor’s office, saying they are “deeply troubled” by the “egregious absence of transparency and public review of the plans for the Seaport.”
They are asking for a “pause to all activity” before they can see the “developer’s full plan for the Seaport.”
Seriously? “See the developer’s whole plan”? This is pure desperation. HHC has laid out their plan for the area at least a half