City Club of New York Opposes LPC Approval of New South Street Seaport Tower
On Tuesday, May 4, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) approved by a 6-2 vote an application for a new residential tower at 250 Water Street in the South Street Seaport Historic District. This was the third time the Howard Hughes Corporation had presented the project, and this time, after the architects at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill made a few tweaks to the design, the LPC determined that the building was appropriate.
The City Club of New York stated our opposition to each iteration of this architecturally inappropriate, out of scale, and quite likely illegal residential tower. The approved design has nothing to do with the area’s historic architecture or scale, and the minimal gestures made in that direction hit a sour note.
The City Club and other civic groups testify against the revised tower proposed at 250 Water Street
The City Club and other civic groups testify against the revised tower proposed at 250 Water Street, in The Architect’s Newspaper, April 7, 2021.
Op-ed piece was written by Jeffrey Kroessler and published in The Wall Street Journal on April 10, 2021.
Last Saturday the WSJ published an op-ed by Ken Jackson of Columbia stating that because the essential characteristic of the city is change and growth, the Seaport project must go forward.
Today the Journal published my letter in rebuttal, with another letter defending preservation. Because there is a paywall, the final text follows:
Kenneth T. Jackson asks: “Does New York Still Want to Be the Capital of the World?,” (Cross Country, April 3). Dynamic change characterizes the city, not preservation, he claims, and blames the Landmarks Preservation Commission for blocking a proposal to build a residential tower in the South Street Seaport Historic District. But it’s a question of law. Is he suggesting that the agency shirk its charter-defined mandate? The property is a vacant lot, and has been since the district was designated in 1977. The LPC is legally bound to determine whether new construction is “appropriate,” and by no yardstick does this proposal fit that description. What could be built if the site wasn’t part of the district is irrelevant.
Is Prof. Jackson suggesting that the city ignore its own zoning regulation also? Because what the Howard Hughes Corp. has presented isn’t currently allowable. The zoning was changed during the Bloomberg administration in 2003 with the support of every elected official to bar development such as this. With this proposal, the owners are asking the city to ignore its own rules. By approving this application for a building that cannot legally be built, Landmarks is tacitly approving a request for a whopper of a zoning variance.
No one wants the South Street Seaport Museum to fail, but the city itself has starved the institution. Rather than hand the company development rights and then rely on it to write a check to the museum, the city could hand that asset to the museum directly, and tell the company to build as-of-right on the lot it purchased.
President, The City Club of New York
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Read Jeffrey A. Kroessler’s New York Daily News February 28, 2021 Op-Ed re: Governors Island here. Find an excerpt below:
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