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It’s final: Developer wins legal battle over Tower in Seaport Historic District

A still from animated renderings shows a view of the planned tower at 250 Water Street as seen from Peck Slip. Howard Hughes Corp./SOM

The long battle over a proposed residential tower in the South Street Seaport Historic District ended this month with a court ruling in favor of developer Howard Hughes Corp.

The New York State Court of Appeals on May 21 affirmed the Court of Appeals’ ruling that Hughes Corp. chose, allowing construction to begin on May 21. the $850 million, 300-foot project.

Howard Hughes CEO David O’Reilly called the block-sized site, formerly a parking lot, “an underutilized part of the Seaport” in a statement that the decision “marks a major victory for Lower Manhattan and the city” and paves the way for “a vibrant mixed-use project that will make a significant contribution to the neighborhood.”

The Seaport Coalition, a group of three local organizations, fought the project, saying its approval by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) was influenced by promised financial support for the struggling South Street Seaport Museum and “direct coordination” between the de Blasio administration, the Landmarks Commission, and Howard Hughes’ lawyers and lobbyists. The Seaport Coalition claims a lack of impartiality at the commission, saying in a statement that the LPC “cannot fulfill its responsibility to protect our historic treasures…We noticed that we were defending the very body that was supposed to defend us.”

A Supreme Court judge’s January 2023 decision agreeing with the petitioners and ordering a temporary halt to construction was reversed by the Court of Appeal. The Seaport coalition submitted a motion in June 2023 to re-argue the case or appeal the decision to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals. The appeals court rejected that request.

The project includes almost 400 apartments, 80 of which are below market price, on a five-storey base with offices, retail and community functions. Excavation of the site began in 2022 and the removal of toxic soil has been completed.

Hughes Corp. purchased 250 Water Street in 2018 for $180 million from Milstein Properties, a developer that had repeatedly failed to get approval for a high-rise building on the site over the years. By 2003, the efforts of CB1 and others had resulted in CB1 and others fighting a winning battle by lowering the site to a maximum building height of 30 meters and, they hoped, all future attempts for an out-of-scale project with buildings in the historic district. .

Twenty-one years later, on May 21, what little was left of that hope finally came to an end.

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