A chance to save the South Street Seaport’s historic character
south street seaport
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Gotham sticks-in-the-mud are infamous for killing off projects that could prove godsends to city communities, but officials would be nuts to let a development proposal for the South Street Seaport Historic District — set for a hearing Tuesday — die on the vine.
The plan for 250 Water Street calls for two towers of affordable housing and condo units and $50 million to fund the reopening of the South Street Seaport Museum. That means more housing for residents and more opportunities for tourists to enjoy this cultural treasure, along with the historic ships docked nearby.
Captain Jonathan Boulware, president of the museum, recently told Manhattan Community Board 1 the money would help the museum leverage funding for the construction of a new building.
Yes, preservationists are griping, as they do at any change at a landmarked site, and the Landmarks Preservation Commission — which will consider the project at a Tuesday hearing — has vetoed previous proposals there. Like other plans, this one needs the LPC’s blessing, because an empty parking lot that would be part of it falls within the South Street Seaport Historic District.
Yet much of the community is behind it. About a quarter of the 360 units would be subsidized housing, and the developer would also rehab Peck Slip Play Street, which serves a nearby school and the surrounding neighborhood.
Note, too, that the parking lot in question was originally included in the district largely to discourage high-rise development and preserve views. And unlike previous plans, this one also provides critical funding for the museum, which is key to having the district maintain its historic character.
Clearly, it’s a post-pandemic shot in the arm: The jobs, affordable housing and reopened museum that will come from it will revitalize local businesses, bars and restaurants and attract new ones to empty storefronts.
The sooner this project wins approval, the sooner it can move through the city’s cumbersome Uniform Land Use Review Procedure process and the sooner communities can recover from the devastating impact of the coronavirus. Rather than miss yet another opportunity, officials should be racing to get this one off the ground.
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