Open Letter from Seaport Towers Opponents

To Jonathan Boulware, President of the South Street Seaport Museum:

Your urgent calls to save the South Street Seaport Museum has our community’s full support and attention. Together, we know we can assure the future of the beloved seafaring sanctuary. But we urge caution with the bedfellows that you and the museum’s Board of Trustees are choosing.

Time and again, New York City depends on unreliable outside investors to do what we should (and can) do on our own. The Texas-based Howard Hughes Corporation (HHC), is trying to secure approvals for a development in the South Street Seaport Historic District that includes two towers nearly four times taller than zoning allows. If approved, the development’s malformed plans for the full-block site at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge will have long-term detrimental consequences to the neighborhood, the city, and the nation.

You, along with the museum’s Board of Trustees, and HHC present a false ultimatum between maintaining the integrity of the Historic District and the future of the museum. Fortunately, there is an air rights funding mechanism already in place, and a community based plan (backed by Community Board 1) that provides a better solution to the museum’s dilemma.

Our Seaport Coalition has offered viable alternative plan(s) to revitalize the birthplace of New York City without placing a bullseye on this and every historic district. Our plan utilizes the already existing mechanism that moves unused Seaport development rights to sites outside the Historic District. It has worked well in the past and can surely be used now to help not only the Museum, but to also pay for other local improvements and create far more than the 100 affordable housing units promised by HHC. Our Seaport Coalition enthusiastically supports any development with deeply affordable housing that also respects the long-existing zoning of 120 feet in height.

The HHC plan for twin 47-story-tall towers would pierce the protected 10-block area, a living museum consisting of early 19th century 4- and 5-story buildings and cobblestone streets. These towers would dwarf the Brooklyn Bridge and dominate the district, stealing the air and sky city dwellers desperately need.

Please, Mr. Boulware, choose to work with the people who have tirelessly volunteered for decades to keep the museum running. We beg you to band with the community, not this untrustworthy developer, to keep the museum about the people, the history and the Seaport as a whole.

We insist that development at 250 Water Street conform to the zoning laws, and viable alternatives be taken seriously. Accepting the oversized project in the tiny and irreplaceable historic district is a bad bargain. It will squander public assets for the benefit of private developers. New Yorkers, and the Seaport community have integrity and grit enough to rebuild, protect historic places AND provide more accessible housing. Let’s face these historic times together. 

— The Seaport Coalition