The city is moving forward with plans to knock down the New Market Building at the South Street Seaport, once again calling the site’s future into question.
The rundown building — constructed in 1939 as part of the Fulton Fish Market — has sat vacant for many years. The city previously discussed demolishing it, back when the Howard Hughes Corporation planned a condominium and hotel tower on the site in 2015. At the time, representatives from the city’s Economic Development Corporation told Crain’s that the building was in danger of collapsing because the piles that supported the structure were so deteriorated. Shavone Williams, a spokesperson for the EDC, told The Real Deal on Thursday that the city has worked closely with Community Board 1 and elected officials on the demolition timeline.
“Our ultimate goal is to ensure that the Seaport remains a safe, vibrant destination for residents in this community,” she said in a statement.
The city has already taken apart substructure portions of the old market and expects it to be fully demolished by the fall. Anthony Notaro, chair of Community Board 1, said that the EDC hasn’t been open about its decision to move forward with the demolition and hasn’t included the group in its discussions.
HHC initially pitched a 52-story building for the city-owned property, then scaled the project down to 42 stories. However, in December 2015, HHC scrapped the project altogether amid fierce community opposition. It’s unclear what the long-term plans are for the site once the structure is razed.
Save Our Seaport, a group that has publicly opposed various aspects of HHC’s redevelopment of the area, called for the building to instead be repurposed for public use and “maritime activity,” such as ship maintenance.
Some of the group’s members who are public members of the local community board said on Thursday that they were told the demolition is being done, in part, to make way for a construction crane that will be used to relocate the adjacent Tin Building. HHC plans to move the building, one of the former homes of the Fulton Fish Market, 18 feet southeast from its current location. A representative for HHC indicated that the city’s plan to demolish the New Market Building is unrelated to the company’s work on the Tin Building.
“If demolition and development become the order of the day, we will lose the essence of this historic district that contains some of New York City’s oldest buildings, historic ships and the South Street Seaport Museum,” David Sheldon, a member of the group said in a statement. “SOS proposes that these public assets be re-purposed to serve the public’s interests, rather than those of stockholders.”
Representatives for HHC didn’t immediately return requests seeking comment.
The Texas-based developer took control of the Seaport in 2010 through a long-term lease with the city. Pier 17, a 212,00-square-foot commercial building, is expected to open this summer.