Judge hits pause on Howard Hughes’ $850M Seaport project

Decision halted 250 Water Street development for community group suit hearing

Howard Hughes' David O’Reilly (Getty, Howard Hughes)
Howard Hughes' David O’Reilly (Getty, Howard Hughes)

Howard Hughes Corporation has hit rough waters in the Seaport.

The developer’s plans for a 547,000-square-foot tower in the South Street Seaport Historic District are on hold through November after a state Supreme Court judge ruled last week in favor of a community group opposed to the development, The City reported.

The ruling came in favor of the Seaport Coalition, which is seeking to stop construction on the $850 million development at 250 Water Street. Construction on the project will pause until Dec. 1, when a separate lawsuit by the coalition against the city Landmarks Preservation Commission will be heard.

The group alleged in the suit against the Landmarks Preservation Commission that the agency didn’t sufficiently review the 270-unit, 324-foot mixed-use project before approving construction.

Judge Arthur Engoron in his opinion cited the commission’s history, which includes rejecting at least four proposals for the site since 1983.

The coalition has a good chance of winning the case, the judge said, because they “have successfully demonstrated that the LPC approved the subject Tower after decades of denying proposals for similarly high buildings on the same lot, and that the LPC failed adequately to acknowledge, much less explain, its departure from previous rulings.”

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Howard Hughes scores final approval for $850M Seaport project

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Engoron’s opinion was first reported by Tribeca Trib.

The judge also called out Hughes’ $40 million funding commitment to the nonprofit South Street Seaport Museum.

“This court is all in favor of funding for museums, but not as a quid pro quo for approval of a massive skyscraper in a historic district that would otherwise be prohibited,” Engoron said.

A spokesperson for Howard Hughes shrugged off the decision.

“Regardless of this decision, we remain confident that this lawsuit is meritless, and the courts will agree that the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s approval of our project was proper and made in full accordance with the Landmarks Law.”

Engoron’s decision did not block cleanup from continuing at the site, where mercury and other toxins were previously detected. Opponents have taken issue with the cleanup process, which they say has caused foul odors in the neighborhood.

“You can smell the petroleum almost a block away,” councilmember Christopher Marte told The City. “No one should have to work or be educated in an environment that bad. We felt like the consultants of developers and the construction crews weren’t doing their job in mitigating the effects that people experience.”