Demolition of Historic Structure in Seaport Now Underway
Above: The historic New Market Building, which preservationists regarded as eminently worth saving, is now being demolished. Below: Howard Hughes Corporation proposes to rehabilitate the deck and pilings beneath the structure, and build a low-rise community facility with a public, rooftop recreation space.
Over the summer, the City’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) began the long-anticipated demolition of the New Market Building in the South Street Seaport. This development ignores a years-long campaign by preservationists to protect and rehabilitate the venerable structure.
The site has been a focus of controversy for nearly a decade. In 2013, the Howard Hughes Corporation (HHC), which has been designated by the City to redevelop the South Street Seaport, announced plans to demolish the structure and erect a 60-story residential tower there. This plan inspired bitter opposition among preservationists, community leaders, and elected officials, which eventually scuttled the proposal.
Even with that planned skyscraper’s cancellation, however, the New Market building had long faced an uncertain future, with decades of neglect having compromised the structure. Possibly eclipsing such considerations was the condition of the deck and pilings beneath the facility, which were arguably in worse disrepair than the New Market Building itself. This supporting framework has been deteriorating since the 1970s, and even if the building above had been in perfect condition, it would still be in danger of falling into the East River as the substructure collapsed.
Weighed against this was what many preservationists saw as the New Building’s historic value. It is listed in both State and Federal registers of historic sites, but does not enjoy City landmark status. In fact, the border of the City’s South Street Seaport Historic District pointedly gerrymanders around the New Market Building, a policy decision that left it legally unprotected from demolition.
In 2018, the Save Our Seaport preservation group noted in a statement that, “in 2010, an inspection report commissioned by the EDC detailed the decay, concluding that approximately $10 million was needed to stabilize and repair the building. Those repairs were never made.”
In 2019, local leaders began to incubate ideas about what to do with the site once the New Market Building was gone. Paul Goldstein, who chairs the Waterfront, Parks, and Cultural Committee of Community Board 1 (CB1), explained, “the New Market Building site is one of the old Fulton Fish Market buildings that is still standing, but scheduled to be demolished. It’s in bad shape and unfortunately the City’s Economic Development Corporation says there’s no choice but to demolish it.”
“At some of the meetings that we’ve had of the Seaport Working Group and other sessions,” he continued, “they’ve suggested to us, ‘maybe you have some ideas.’ The City has said they don’t know what they’re going to do with the site. Apparently, there’s no budget for it. So a lot of this is just trying to get the project moving.”
“We had a good discussion and there were a lot of good recommendations,” Goldstein noted. “A lot of people envisioned a smaller building that would house community spaces and have a rooftop field, for children. There was also talk about parks, schools, boat docks, greenmarkets, and a library.”
Although CB1 listed funding for repair of the deck and pilings (following demolition of the building) as a priority in its District Needs Statement for 2021, the City has yet announced any such allocation (which is estimated to cost tens of millions of dollars). CB1 also called upon the City to “rebuild the New Market Building for public use, with facilities that could include a community center (with indoor and rooftop recreation space); rental and repair facilities for bicycles, boats and other recreational equipment; or a restaurant.
Howard Hughes Corporation plans to create this community facility in exchange for transferring unused air rights from the site of the New Market Building to a nearby parcel at 250 Water Street, where the company plans to erect a large residential tower.
These conditions seem to imply that a private-sector benefactor will be needed to enable any kind of redevelopment at the site of the New Market Building. The likeliest candidate would appear to be HHC. In its original 2013 proposal for a residential tower, the company offered to cover the cost of repairing the pilings and deck. In 2020, HHC revised its plan to call for a low-rise community facility—with a public, rooftop recreation space, and “compatible commercial uses supporting local amenities.” This idea is an updated version of a concept first proposed in the 2002 Downtown East River Waterfront Concept Plan, jointly sponsored by CB1 and the Downtown Alliance.
At the same time, HHC hopes to use the parcel as a “granting site” to transfer unused development rights to another lot (at nearby 250 Water Street), where the developer hopes to erect a large residential tower. This proposal specifies that, “HHC would be responsible for and assume costs associated with the delivery of these improvements, with substantial completion made a condition of HHC’s receipt of a Temporary Certificates of Occupancy for a new 925,000 square-foot building at 250 Water Street.”
With an area of nearly 40,000 square feet, or almost one acre, the deck beneath the New Market Building makes an alluring prospect for both commercial developers and community planners. Whether the parcel will be developed for private profit, community benefit, or some combination of the two—or whether it will remain empty after the New Market Building is dismantled—remains to be seen.
All of these considerations may be rendered moot (or at least vastly more complicated) by the plan announced in March 2019 by Mayor Bill de Blasio to use landfill to extend the East River shoreline, between the Brooklyn Bridge and the Battery, as a resiliency measure. If this plan moves forward, the site of the New Market Building may end up being two blocks inland from the new waterfront.
September 16, 1920: Terror on Wall Street
On September 11 thousands gather at Ground Zero to honor those killed fifteen years earlier when commercial airliners were repurposed into deadly missiles, striking a blow at the very symbol of capitalism by targeting prominent buildings in New York’s Financial District.
On September 16 tens of thousands walk down Wall Street unaware that nearly a hundred years ago New York City’s deadliest terror attack until 2001 took place right there. Though no plaque marks the spot, the scars are still visible if you know where to look.
As the noon hour approached on a fall Thursday morning in 1920 a horse-drawn wagon slowly made its way west down Wall Street toward “the Corner,” the high-powered intersection of Wall and Broad. Its driver came to a gentle stop in front of the Assay Office, where stockpiles of gold and silver were stored and tested for purity. But theft was not his motive.
Next door was the U.S. Sub-Treasury with its own cache of precious metals, including the heroic bronze of George Washington kick-starting a nation out on the front steps. And in view just across Broad Street stood the iconic façade of the New York Stock Exchange. Talk about a target-rich environment!
But it was the building directly across narrow Wall Street that seems to have held the driver’s interest. J. P. Morgan & Company was the nation’s most powerful bank. Known as “the House of Morgan,” or simply “the House,” 23 Wall Street was the most important address in American finance. Its headquarters distinguished itself by its lack of ornamentation.
As other companies proclaimed greatness with buildings that scraped the sky, the House modestly rose four unadorned floors. Unconspicuous consumption at its finest. Of course, it announced its presence even louder by playing it so cool, and everyone—bankers, wagon drivers, and terrorists alike—knew whose house it was.
Few recalled the old wagon or its driver, who suddenly dropped the reins and hurried off. Some recalled Trinity’s bells begin to announce the noon hour. Everyone recalled the sudden flash of light and the explosion.
Just before the peal ended, one hundred pounds of dynamite exploded, vaporizing both wagon and horse and hurling five hundred pounds of white-hot metal through streets crowded with bank clerks, secretaries, and messenger boys out for lunch.
An eerie silence followed, broken by the sound of crashing glass and the cries of four hundred injured. Thirty-eight men, women, and children—and one horse, whose hooves were found two blocks away in front of Trinity Church—were killed. Those closest to the wagon were consumed by flames or cut to pieces by metal shrapnel. A hundred fifty lay badly wounded.
Within a minute of the explosion the Stock Exchange closed. Within an hour, two thousand police officers, Red Cross nurses, and soldiers stationed on Governor’s Island were at the scene caring for the wounded and protecting the precious metals stored in the suddenly breached Assay Office.
The Wall Street bombing remains unsolved nearly a century later, though Italian anarchists—responsible for a wave of similar bombings across America the previous year—are the main suspects. In a successful effort to open the Stock Exchange the following morning and appear unfazed by the event, bodies and debris—including evidence that might have helped identify the perpetrators—were cleared away before the sun came up.
In that same spirit of defiance (though some argue it was more a cost-saving move), J. P. Morgan & Company quickly announced that it would not repair the damaged stones. Though the wooden wall that gave the street its name is long gone, a stone wall on the Corner tells a Wall Street tale worth remembering. Please share it with others the next time you’re there.
Sufficient Unto the Dey
Lottery Opens for New Affordable Apartments in Financial District Building
Lower Manhattan’s meager inventory of affordable rental apartments will soon swell by 63 units, thanks to a new development nearing completion at 185 Broadway, at the corner of Dey Street. The building, which will be known by its branding address of 7 Dey, will contain a total of 206 apartments (the remaining 143 units will be market-rate rentals), along with several floors of retail and office space. In exchange for committing to affordability protections on the 63 units, developer S.L. Green received tax incentives worth many millions of dollars, which helped to build the $300 million project.
To read more…
‘It Will be Very Easy’
New Governor Plans to Get BPC Opinions Regarding Essential Workers Monument
While many residents and community activists may have hoped that plans for an Essential Workers Monument in Battery Park City had perished in tandem with the political demise of former Governor Andrew Cuomo (who resigned in disgrace, in August), his successor may have other ideas.
Providing Companion and Home Health Aide Care to clients with dementia.Help with grooming, dressing and wheelchair assistance. Able to escort client to parks and engage in conversations of desired topics and interests of client. Reliable & Honest
Reliable, trustworthy and caring Nanny looking for full time position preferably with newborns, infants and toddlers. I have experience in the Battery Park City area for 8 years. I will provide a loving, safe and nurturing environment for your child. Refs available upon request. Beverly 347 882 6612
HOUSEKEEPING/ NANNY/ BABYSITTER
Available for PT/FT. Wonderful person, who is a great worker.
Worked in BPC. Call Tenzin
SEEKING LIVE-IN ELDER CARE
12 years experience, refs avail. I am a loving caring hardworking certified home health aide
Konstantinos (Gus) Ouranitsas, a pillar of the Battery Park City community and the longtime Resident Manager of the Liberty Court condominium, passed away at age 65 on Friday, September 10, surrounded by his family.
Mr. Ouranitsas, who succumbed to complications from pancreatic cancer, is survived by his devoted wife of 33 years, Maria; his loving children, Konstantine, Nestor, and Marina; his mother, Eleni; and his sister, Vasiliki Tourloukis, along with many nieces, nephews, cousins and their families.
A Resident’s Recollections from the Months After September 11, 2001
Everybody asks me what it is like to live “down there.” They mean, of course, near Ground Zero, which is a block away from my front door. The sounds, smells, and changes that pervade my daily life here make it hard for me to know how to respond with an easy, short answer.
Today it is gray. The streets are wet, not from rain, but from the sanitation trucks that pass by every few hours spraying strong jets of water to keep down the dust. To read more…
The Broadsheet Sept 7 – 20
Wondering Whether You Have Been Worth the Windfall
You recall the frenetic chaos—people wandering blithely into traffic, while cars with flashing lights and bleating sirens tried to make lurching progress by driving on sidewalks. And everyone staring upward, transfixed.
Even amid the bedlam, one anomalously serene (even festive) detail stood out. Confetti—a jumble of office paperwork and shredded aluminum—drifting lazily toward the ground. Reminiscent of nothing so much as a ticker tape parade, but in reverse. The honorees didn’t know the parade was for them, because they had not yet become heroes and martyrs. Although in just a few moments, they would.
A few minutes later, you stood at the foot of a tower, looking up at an airplane-shaped hole in its side and thinking, “there is no way that building is going to fall down.” To read more…
EYES TO THE SKY
September 6 – 19, 2021
Reach out to Jupiter, Saturn all night
Planet Jupiter shines with startling brilliance above the southeast horizon in evening twilight. The great planet, orbiting fifth out from the Sun in our solar system, could be mistaken for the light of an airplane flying low above the skyline. Jupiter (-2.83 magnitude) is the Evening Star rising in the southeast while dazzling planet Venus (-4.05m), is the Evening Star setting in the west-southwest during twilight. Note that the smaller the number the greater the magnitude of a celestial object. Sunset is, roughly, 7:15pm this week and 7:00pm next week. Twilight begins about half an hour later and, for nightfall, add another hour. To read more…
How will artificial intelligence change our world? Join Kai-Fu Lee, former president of Google China and bestselling author of AI Superpowers, and celebrated novelist Chen Qiufan, author of sci-fi sensation Waste Tide, online for the launch of their new book AI 2041: Ten Visions for Our Future. The authors will discuss AI’s advances in China and how the technology is poised to burst into our daily lives on an unimaginable scale.
School’s back! Celebrate the return to school at this family community event with beats by DJ Susan Z. Anthony, chalk drawings, a picnic area, and an array of classic lawn games. Fast break to the basketball court for a New York Red Bulls freestyle soccer show. The evening ends with a screening of The Sandlot complete with popcorn. 4:30PM: freestyle soccer show; 5:30PM: festivities; 7:30PM: movie. Free. RSPV here.
The tall ship Wavertree, the schooner Pioneer, and the tug W.O. Decker are open to the public. Explore Wavertree while she is docked; cruise New York Harbor on W.O. Decker and Pioneer! Wavertree visits are free; Pioneer and Decker prices vary. Check website for times, prices and other details.
9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Report
More Survivors than Responders Now are Submitting Claims
The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) has released its annual report for 2020, which documents some significant developments.
Over the course of its ten years of operation thus far, the VCF has awarded $7.76 billion to more than 34,400 individuals who have suffered death or personal injury as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and their aftermath. The vast majority of these injuries take the form of illness caused by exposure to toxic materials that were released by the destruction of the World Trade Center.