Rechler’s ship-to-hotel plan in deep trouble

Decrepit ocean liner faces eviction in Philly, won’t fit at NYC pier

RXR’s Ship-to-Hotel Conversion is in Deep Trouble
RXR’s Scott Rechler (Getty, RXR Realty)

If Scott Rechler has that sinking feeling, it’s because his plan to turn an old ocean liner into a hotel is taking on water.

The RXR chief executive and the SS United States Conservancy aim to save the deteriorating SS United States by making it a New York City hotel. But state and local officials aren’t accommodating their request for a pier and the 1950s ship is facing eviction from Philadelphia, Newsday reported.

SS United States (Public Domain/Wikimedia)

The aging vessel is docked at a pier owned by Penn Warehousing. During the pandemic, Penn doubled the rent and then moved to evict so it could redevelop the property. The ship’s champions are fighting the pier owner in court, but are readying a move regardless.

Rechler and the conservancy want to relocate the SS United States to Pier 76 in Manhattan, which is in Hudson River Park near the Javits Convention Center. The West Side pier is owned by the state, but the Hochul administration is giving Rechler and crew no harbor, despite the executive’s prolific real estate donations and civic involvement over the years.

It has instead deferred to the Hudson River Park Trust, which says the pier could not even support a small vessel, let alone a 990-foot behemoth. Dredging would also be required.

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The conservancy says the hotel project would create jobs, revenue and public amenities, such as green open space. The pier in question is used for events and as an impound lot.

In case that doesn’t work out, the conservancy is drawing up contingency plans. It has approached the governors of Florida and Pennsylvania about putting the floating hotel in Miami or Philadelphia, respectively.

Rechler has played a key role in the plan, outlining a $500 million redevelopment and pitching it to several cities. Ideas for the vessel have included a museum, brewery, food hall, events space and restaurants, along with guest rooms.

The latest plan would have MCR Hotels operate a 1,000-key hotel on the ship, which made its maiden round-trip back in 1952. The ocean liner was retired after more than 17 years and sold to the government and various developers before the conservancy acquired it in 2011.

Holden Walter-Warner

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