Residents Vent Fears Over Rooftop Concerts Coming to Pier 17

Left: Southbridge Towers resident Warren Green tells Saul Scherl from the Howard Hughes Corp., "I don't want to hear noise from your speakers. I don't want to hear noise from 4,000 people…" Right: Rendering of the planned rooftop stage and audience covering. Photos: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib (Green); Howard Hughes Corp. (rendering)  

Dec. 24, 2017

The specter of clogged streets, unruly crowds and noisy, nerve-rattling concerts has Seaport residents fearing the worst when Pier 17’s rooftop comes alive next year with big-time entertainment and 4,000 capacity crowds.

Representatives from the Howard Hughes Corp., developers of the Pier 17 mall and other Seaport properties, got an earful of those and other concerns at a Community Board 1 sponsored meeting with local residents, most of whom live in the nearby Southbridge Towers apartment complex.

Saul Scherl, a Howard Hughes executive vice president, tried to assure the standing-room-only gathering in the Southbridge community room that the developer will be coming up with ways to control the noise, traffic and crowds. A security plan, being devised with consultants, is still a work in progress, he said, and will be presented to the residents in February along with the results of a rooftop sound test.

“We’re going to share all the results with you, the good, the bad, the ugly,” Scherl said. “And we’re going to walk you through it and see what the issues are and what we can do to solve them.”

But residents could foresee no good ahead and, one after another, they made their feelings known to the developers.

“I’d like to know the effect of, say, a rap concert, which is very, very heavy on bass,” said Melissa Exelberth, who also worried about her 91-year-old mother and others who live at St. Margaret’s House on Fulton Street, a main route between the subway and the venue. “I don’t see how these people will be anything but shut-ins whenever there is a concert.”

Paul Kiefer, president of the Southbridge Towers board of directors, complained that there had been no studies of sidewalk congestion, pedestrian safety, light pollution or potential sanitation problems. “These factors plus the noise levels will effectively make our community of residents into unwitting concert goers,” he said.

“You’re going to be bringing all these people into our community with all kinds of concerts and shows and our security is going to be basically left to ourselves,” said John Fratta, a former chair of Community Board 1’s Seaport Committee. “This is our neighborhood, not yours!”

Scherl said his company has been working “very closely” with NYPD as well as its security consultants, and at the next meeting “we’ll talk about how to make sure that everyone is safe.” As for noise, he said there is “remarkable” new technology that can narrowly direct amplified sound and that Howard Hughes, not the renter of the venue, would monitor and control the volume from the pier’s two speaker towers. “We’re not going to have some crazy thing up there where we hand over the keys to someone else to run the roof for the concerts and say goodbye, good luck— and get the phone calls coming in. We will be up there making sure—we’re going to have sound monitors spread throughout.”

“I’m not saying there’s not going to be hurdles and there’s not going to be bumps,” he later told the skeptical audience, “but we’re going to figure it out.”