The Daily Dirt: Seaport project to move forward, for real this time

Court ends years’ long legal fight

A photo illustration depicting a rendering of 250 Water Street (Getty, Howard Hughes)
A photo illustration depicting a rendering of 250 Water Street (Getty, Howard Hughes)

For decades, developers have wanted to transform the parking lot at 250 Water Street, in the heart of the South Street Seaport.  

Howard Hughes bought the site for $180 million in 2018, after the Milstein family had tried and failed to reimagine the site since the 1980s. 

Soon after Howard Hughes took over, residents raised the alarm about building up the property, citing potential mercury left in the soil from a thermometer factory that once operated on the site. The company went through a few iterations of the project before launching public review, both before the Landmarks Preservation Commission and through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. 

A few lawsuits and changes to the proposal later, the developer secured approval from the Landmarks and the City Council in 2021. 

Over the past few years, a number of headlines have announced that the project can finally move forward. 

But two key things have happened that promise to now get things rolling for the 400-rental unit building: 

Last year, a state appellate court revived the project, reversing a previous trial court’s voiding of Landmarks’ approval. That was a big deal for Howard Hughes, but didn’t solve the financials of building a multifamily project in the city. For one, the developer needed an extension to the 421a construction deadline.

That extension came in late April, with the passage of the state budget. 

On Tuesday, the Court of Appeals declined to take up preservations’ appeal of the appellate court’s reversal. This was expected: The appellate court’s decision was unanimous, and only a fraction of the motions for leave to appeal are approved. (According to the court’s annual report, only 6.8 percent of the 636 motions for leave to appeal were granted in 2023.)

So, at this point, the 421a extension was the bigger issue. The developer now has until June 2031 to complete construction, rather than 2026, to qualify for the tax break, which should make it easier (but not necessarily easy!) to secure financing. 

What we’re thinking about: Given the expected changes to the mayor’s City of Yes for Economic Opportunity, what will it take for the City Council to sign off on what the mayor has called the “most ambitious changes to zoning in New York City’s history”? And what kinds of carve-outs will it take for the mayor to shed that superlative? Send a note to

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A thing we’ve learned: A landlord group in Hoboken has submitted a petition to the City Clerk that, if certified, could trigger a special election to determine if the New Jersey city’s rent control ordinance should be changed. The group, the Mile Square Taxpayers Association, wants to change the ordinance to allow property owners to pay a $2,500 fee to the Hoboken Affordable Housing Trust Fund in exchange for leasing vacant apartments at market rate. Those apartments would remain rent controlled after that initial rent. 

Elsewhere in New York…

— The city needs to hire more than 1,000 lifeguards to fully staff its beaches and has only hired 230, Gothamist reports. That may mean that some beaches are open for fewer hours during Memorial Day weekend. 

— Assembly member Harvey Epstein is expected to run for the City Council District 2 seat, which will be vacated by term-limited Council member Carlina Rivera, City & State reports. Manhattan Community Board Chair Andrea Gordillo is also running, as is Sarah Batchu, who is vice chair. 

— The state’s power grid can handle forecasted demand this summer — emphasis on forecasted. A report by the New York Independent System Operator projects that more than 40,700 megawatts of power sources are available for 33,300 megawatts of peak demand, the Times Union reports. That small buffer becomes less of a safety net with heat waves and other extreme weather events. 

Closing Time

Residential: The priciest residential sale Tuesday was $8.9 million for a 3,667-square-foot condominium unit at 43 West 64th Street on the Upper West Side. Loy Carlos, Kenneth J. Moore and Colin Meagley of Nest Seekers had the listing. 

Commercial: The largest commercial sale of the day was $3.6 million for a 5,000-square-foot multifamily apartment building at 1228 Putnam Avenue in Bushwick. Mark Martov of The Corcoran Group had the listing. 

New to the Market: The highest price for a residential property hitting the market was $57.5 million for a single-family townhouse at 38-40 East 76th Street in Lenox Hill. Leighton Candler and Jennifer Reardon of The Corcoran Group have the listing. — Matthew Elo