Seaport community groups sue to block Howard Hughes’ Water Street tower

Complaint accuses Landmarks commission of shirking its duties, bowing to political pressure

The complaint against the tower includes loss of views for current residents in the neighborhood. (Getty)
The complaint against the tower includes loss of views for current residents in the neighborhood. (Getty)

The battle over Howard Hughes’ proposed tower at 250 Water Street isn’t over just yet.

Several community groups have sued the Landmarks Preservation Commission, alleging that the city agency violated its duties in approving the 25-story project. The Village Sun first reported the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs claim that Landmarks misconstrued the basic tenets of historic preservation, were unlawfully swayed by the developers’ promise of community benefits and acted in the political interest of its committee members.

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The groups are seeking to overturn the commission’s approval, which paved the way for the developers to move forward with the city’s land-use review process and wind its way toward a City Council vote.

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“We are confident the commission’s decision to approve this project was made in full accordance with the Landmark Law and that the court will dismiss” the lawsuit, said a Howard Hughes spokesperson who described the legal challenge as “a desperate stunt.”

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs take the Landmarks commission to task for not defending the “interests of members of the general public” — including the protection of property values in the historic district and the loss of views for current residents. One of the groups involved in the suit, Seaport Coalition, includes residents of Southbridge Towers, a onetime Mitchell Lama building whose tenants voted to go private nearly a decade ago.

They also accuse the commission of bowing to pressure from city officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, who want to see more affordable housing built. The project will include 70 affordable units.

Lawsuits following an LPC decision are not uncommon for the losing side, although they are not commonly successful in overturning what the commission has decided.

Last December, a group of mainly condo owners at Brooklyn’s One Hanson Place sued the commission after it approved a 265-foot building that the Gotham Organization seeks to build at 130 St. Felix Street. Opponents acknowledged that part of the impetus for the complaint was a desire to preserve views from their condos, which sit within what was once the tallest building in the borough. That dispute is currently ongoing.