Milstein owns it
I was down by the South St Seaport on Saturday and noticed that the largish block bordered by Water St, Peck Slip, Pearl St and Beekman St is completely empty (other than a large surface parking lot).
Who owns this huge site, and are there any plans to put anything here? Now that the fish market is gone, this area is prime for development.
Notwithstanding the fact that the Seaport and its tourists are close (which I agree is a downer) or the fact that the area feels more like Boston than NYC (and it does), there's no question the area has, in places, real charm, with cobblestones, narrow streets and old brick buildings.
Milstein owns it
Downtowners turn eye to Peck Slip, waterfront plans
By Ronda Kaysen
While most New Yorkers hunger for a grassy, green oasis for respite, Seaport residents are the rare exception. They have no interest in changing a triangular, cobblestone swath of their neighborhood into a green, flowery park. Instead, they hope to see Peck Slip become a stony piazza that will hark back to the seafaring days of the neighborhood’s watery past.
“This is absolutely a unique space in New York City,” said Battery Park City resident Jordan Gruzen at a recent Community Board 1 Seaport and Civic Center Committee meeting. “There are places in Rome that have a wonderful sense as an urban place. Rather than refer to it as a park, I suggest we refer to it as a plaza or a piazza.”
Nearly 70 residents turned out to the June 13 meeting to hear a city Dept. of Parks and Recreation presentation about the future of the three-block long slip, which is now a wide, formless street used mainly as an ad hoc parking lot.
The slip, which runs through Water, Front and South Sts., has had the attention of the city for several years. The Dept. of Transportation has been at work on a plan to replace and restore broken cobblestones and fix the sidewalks. The slip is also part of a $150 million plan, funded by the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., to renovate the East River Waterfront.
“What we’re thinking of right now is an open space, a place that people can use, that brings with it certain things—benches, lighting, security,” Lawrence Mauro, a project manager for the Parks Dept., told board members at the public meeting. “It doesn’t necessarily mean a green lawn in the center with trees and flowers.”
The Parks Dept. recently selected the architectural firm Quennell Rothschild and artist George Trakas to design the park. Rothschild has designed several city parks, including the East River esplanade and the master plan for the Hudson River Park.
D.O.T. is considering closing off Front St. to increase public space at the park, a suggestion that received mixed support from the public. “We need to think long and hard about closing streets on a permanent basis,” said C.B. 1 member Paul Hovitz.
Mauro expects D.O.T. and Parks to meet later this month to further discuss the park’s future and make another presentation to the community board next month. “We’re going to sit down with D.O.T. and start a cooperative design process,” Mauro said.
Residents voiced concerns about just how cooperative an inter-agency design and construction process would actually be, voicing fears of “the New York two-step”—a city habit of fixing a street only to have another agency tear it up a few months later. “One [agency] doesn’t know what the other one is doing,” said Seaport resident Scott Rubman.
“We’re doing what we can,” Mauro responded. “It hurts me just as much as it hurts anyone else when someone comes in and tears things up on a project that I’ve done. It hurts a lot.”
Peck Slip has a long maritime history, and at Tuesday’s meeting, residents harked back to its seafaring history. A watery slip used by boats to dock until 1810, Peck Slip once offered George Washington and his troops protection as they fled from the Battle of Brooklyn. More recently, it was used as a fish market parking lot until the Fulton Fish Market relocated to the Bronx late last year.
In March, the Seaport Community Coalition and business owners held a symposium, Seaport Speaks, to discuss the future of the Seaport. A plan to transform Peck Slip into a piazza came out of that discussion.
The Seaport Community Coalition also decided it wanted to create a Local Development Corporation, under the auspices of the Economic Development Corporation, to keep tabs on the $150 million East River Waterfront redevelopment, which encompasses an area from Battery Park to East River Park, touching the eastern edge of several neighborhoods, including Seaport, Chinatown, the Financial District and the Lower East Side.
“We believed [the L.D.C.] should be its own entity to really create a vision, a plan, to really carry out the entire mission” of the East River Waterfront redevelopment, said Madelyn Wils, chairperson of the Governance Committee for Seaport Speaks, at a Civic Alliance panel discussion on Monday night about the East River Waterfront.
Wils, who is a member of the L.M.D.C.’s board of directors, chaired C.B. 1 when the city was developing its East River Waterfront plan. “The L.D.C. will program the East River Waterfront. It will be the entire entity that will create a life for the waterfront,” she said.
The waterfront redevelopment plan, developed by the E.D.C. and the Dept. of City Planning, includes ideas for a beachfront, pavilions beneath the F.D.R. Drive and a revived plaza in front of the historic Battery Maritime building.
Ultimately, the Downtown Alliance, a business improvement district that borders the waterfront, “will have to take over some of the maintenance” of the waterfront, Wils, an Alliance board member, said. The Alliance currently maintains parks in its district.
Maintaining a revived East River Waterfront would cost $5 million a year, Wils said. “We hope to get our heads around [the upkeep costs] this summer,” E.D.C. panelist Kelley told the audience.
Wils suggested using the proceeds from city-run parking lots and siphoning tax dollars generated at the Seaport mall to fund the East River park, a system that would require legislation in Albany. “Sydney has built underwater parking,” she said of a recent tour of the Australian city’s waterfront. “This is really where they get most of their revenue from—it may be something we ought to be looking at.”
Volume 19 • Issue 5 | June 16 - 22, 2006
Warning: blatant self-promotion ahead.
I said it last year:
The Peck Slip plaza is horrible. Maybe a cue should be taken from the renovated Front St, where the treeless street better connects to a time when the area was a bustling shipping center - the point of a historic district, right?
The idea of an open "piazza" is much better than what is proposed.
(This open space also happens to be an excellent spot to catch the 4th of July fireworks over the East River -- easy in / easy out -- with none of the 'trapped" feeling that you can experience up on the elevated FDR Drive.)
On the Waterfront: South Street Seaport, Treasure for the City, Is Suddenly in Play
BY ROBERTA WEISBROD - Special to the Sun
June 26, 2006
South Street Seaport, the area of Manhattan shoreline just south of the Brooklyn Bridge, is in play, and what happens over the next few months will set its future for decades.
The opportunity is a result of two shifts in real estate: A year ago, General Growth Properties, a major publicly traded REIT that owns or operates 200 shopping malls nationwide, acquired the Rouse Co., including the South Street Seaport properties that it developed - Pier 17 and four other assemblages - a total of 385,000 square feet of retail space.
And a half year ago, the city relocated the 180-year-old Fulton Fish market to the Bronx, leaving behind an estimated 140,000 square feet of vacant selling space. GGP intends to exercise its option to acquire the city-owned landmarked "Tin Building" as well as a block of privately owned market stalls that were also vacated.
A spokeswoman for GGP, Cheri Fein of Rubenstein Associates, said the developer plans "to service the growing residential population as well as the people that work there."
The city's Economic Development Corporation will now have to decide how to develop its remaining parcel, the non-landmarked "New Market Building."
The city's planning commissioner, Amanda Burden, is effusive about the possibilities. "South Street Seaport is unique in New York City. It's unique among all American cities," she said. "The wonderful scale, the texture, with access to the water and a view of the Brooklyn Bridge."
It's a treasure for the city, she said - "and an important amenity for the financial district - their respite and recreation."
The seaport is where 200 years ago New York became a great global city through innovations in technology, financing, and business models, the latter best exemplified by the initiation of the world's first scheduled cargo shipping line, leaving on time, and half empty, in a January snowstorm.
The City is developing three plans for downtown, all involving South Street Seaport. All three of them have good prospects for being accomplished.
The Mayor's Harbor District links Brooklyn Bridge Park, Governor's Island, the Battery-Statue of Liberty, and the South Street Seaport by water - with the Seaport an obvious embarcadero for ferries.
In addition, the city's planning department and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation have created the Fulton Street Revitalization Plan, an upgraded corridor from the Hudson River to the East River, encompassing the new World Trade Center and the new Calatrava Transit Hub, and culminating with a park at the old Burling Slip in the South Street Seaport.
Most ambitious of all is city planning's East River Waterfront Esplanade and Piers Project, with $150 million of LMDC funds earmarked to create a two-mile walkway-bikeway along the entire tip of Manhattan. Innovations include enlivening the dreary underside of the FDR Drive with lighting, traffic-muting cladding, and pavilions for community, culture, and commerce. At the South Street Seaport section, the dismantled Pier 15 will be rebuilt as a public open space, to be used for historic vessel tie-ups.
Peck Slip, where huge oceangoing sailing vessels once pulled in for unloading is now a cluttered parking lot. But under the city's plan it will become a great plaza. The north side of Pier 17, now neglected, but breathtaking in its sweep of the East River, will become a small boat marina.
Civic groups have been actively engaged in shaping the course of the South Street Seaport. SeaportSpeaks, an energetic group composed of residents, architects, preservationists, developers, builders, cultural leaders, residents, and government officials, convened a one-day charrette, a workshop to develop ideas. The charrette's 70 participants agreed that the Ssaport's scale, texture, sense of history and maritime connection have to be preserved and promoted to attract unique, appropriate retail.
"With the removal of the Fulton Fish Market, cultural institutions and venues become the living, working link to the Seaport's rich narrative," said the co-chair of SeaportSpeaks, Lee Gruzen. "They should be the honey to attract New Yorkers to come, stay and return again and again."
The charrette's conclusions are available on the group's Web site, seaportspeaks.org. They include ideas like "Attract the finest restaurateurs-seafood first - as better quality restaurants will be an attraction." And "Put the SEA back into the SEAport." And create a "real neighborhood" with groceries, food, and shopping, so that residents of the neighborhood "don't have to leave."
The main issues are maintaining the momentum and creating an entity to coordinate agencies, lobby for funds, guide development, oversee spending, and assure businesses get the services they need. Right now the civic groups are thrashing out governance options, whether a Local Development Corporation, an Economic Development Corporation Task Force, or other public private structure, to sustain the enterprise and keep alive at the seaport the spirit and energy that were there when it began.
this area would be a great place to building a low-rise biotech hub to expand the cities reach in this area, away from constructing these facilities just on hospital/college ground.
Tent of mirrors to open at the Seaport
An idea of what the Spiegeltent, bound for the South Street Seaport,will look like once it opens August 3
By Nicole Davis
Imagine the feel of the film “Moulin Rouge” inside a tent filled with mirrors, where cabaret acts, musicians, and comedians change by the hour, and you’ll come close to envisioning Spiegeltent. The 7,700 square foot performance space will take up digs Downtown, at Pier 17, near the former site of the Fulton Fish Market, from Thursday, August 3 through October 1.
Only a handful of these so-called “mirror tents” — Spiegel is German for mirror — are left in the world. They first appeared in the 1920s and ’30s as temporary dance halls in Belgium, and many today serve as dinner theater venues in cities like San Francisco. (One is currently in the Catskills.)
The Spiegeltent bound for Lower Manhattan is approximately 86 years old. As of Monday, the 35,000 pieces that comprise it were stuck in Elizabeth, NJ, where they were still being inspected by U.S. Customs. The organizers don’t expect the hold up will delay the tent’s opening. According to Ross Mollison, one of three producers of the temporary venue, set-up should be a breeze. “We’ve hired five Belgian experts who know this tent like it’s a member of their family,” he said.
Once erected, Spiegeltent will house a wooden parquet floor, brass bar, stained glass windows, velvet booths and hundreds of mirrors. It can hold 400 people.
“It’s like a Moulin Rouge environment,” said Mollison. “[Once inside], you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.” Over 80 performers are scheduled to appear, from the Brazilian Girls to Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping. But the showcase event is Absinthe, a cabaret-vaudeville “variety show on acid” that premiered at a Spiegeltent at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
It was the Edinburgh Spiegeltent, in fact, that inspired producers Mollison, PS 122 artistic director Vallejo Gantner, and Thomas Kreigsmann, to reproduce the same diverse lineup here. “The last beautiful concert halls in New York are the Carnegie Halls,” said Kreigsmann, who helped curate the 2003 Fresh Terrain performance festival in Austin.
A space like Carnegie would never host such diverse talent as punk legend Nina Hagen and New Orleans’ Preservation Hall Jazz Band, however, so the producers imported a theater that could. “This is a classic, internationally renowned venue, so [we found] artists who could really embrace that. The idea was to have an eclectic mix to match the eclectic nature of tent.”
Adrienne Truscott, one half of the vaudeville-burlesque troupe, the Wau Wau Sisters, agrees. “There are not many clubs left in New York City that are beautiful and available to the alty-cabaret set,” she said. Truscott and her Wau Wau sister Tayna Gagné performed at the Spiegeltent in Edinburgh in 2002. “It was super exciting to perform in a venue that was sort of a character in itself,” said Truscott, adding that the tent “lends itself to all the imagination and romance of cabaret acts.”
For Reverend Billy, the brocaded big top will double as a sort of revival tent for his Church of Stop Shopping. The political activist and his choir, the Stop Shopping singers, specialize in campaigns like “retail intervention,” in which they stage sermons against modern-day devils like Wal-Mart and Victoria’s Secret, whose corporate practices jeopardize the environment and our communities. Throughout August and September at Spiegeltent, they will perform their “war on tourism,” begun in the wake of 9/11.
“All 35 of us are all New Yorkers, and we have been upset by the way our tragedy has been used around the world, and how the event has been used to create a touristic suburbanizing of our own city.” He includes the Seaport as a prime example of a shopping district run amok, but so far, he’s reserving any harsh judgment against Spiegeltent.
“The leadership and I are really intrigued by the European-style circus tent. It’s a new one for us,” he said.
Performances inside Spiegeltent will begin at 10 AM on weekends, with family-friendly acts earlier in the day and adult shows starting in the evening and lasting into the wee hours, when the chairs will be cleared to make way for DJs and a dance floor. (Shows will start at 4 PM on weekdays.) Tickets will generally run from $10 to $35. Heartland Brewery will provide food and drink in an outdoor beer garden, complete with cabanas and day beds.
The New York Spiegeltent producers predict that the two-month-long performance festival will become an annual event. They’ve rented the tent this year, but are talking about buying or building their own Spiegeltent in the future. They even see it as an opportunity for performers to try out new material, as many do during the New York Fringe Fest.
“Some of the shows could spin out to off-off Broadway,” said Mollison. Comedian Steve Truffaut’s Lenny Bruce show, for instance, is one that the producers guarantee will become a larger production in the future.
Not every performer knows what to expect. “I knew nothing about it,” said violinist Daniel Bernard Romain, of the experimental group DBR and The Mission. “But when I saw the tent [online], that was the first thing that drew me in.” The circus-like space isn’t the most unusual venue that DBR has played. “I’ve performed on mountain tops, on cruise ships... once on the top of the Empire State Building. So it’s not the strangest venue, but it’s definitely one of the more interesting.”
© 2006 Community Media, LLC
Seaport firm, residents like food market to replace Fish Market
By Jefferson Siegel
Small greenmarkets and the occasional supermarket dot the Lower Manhattan landscape. But, as Downtown’s residential renaissance continues apace, there is a growing need for more than just the basic staples of nutrition. Last week a presentation at Community Board 1’s Seaport/Civic Center Committee meeting may portend an abundance of fresh comestibles for Downtown residents in the near future.
A new organization, the non-profit New Amsterdam Public Market Association, offered a preview of their intention to create a year-round, indoor, agrarian public market somewhere in the Seaport area.
Not exactly a greenmarket, the public market takes its lead from such endeavors as Seattle’s Pike Place Market, where purveyors, or middlemen, seeks out the best in locally grown and produced food.
In the first formal discussion of their project, the market’s proponents, Robert LaValva and Jill Slater, told board members of their vision for an indoor market that would operate all year. Reading from the mission statement, LaValva envisions a market “where authentic butchers, fish and cheese mongers, grocers and other purveyors sell food that is produced sustainably and humanely by our region’s Farmers and artisans.”
LaValva offered that as people become more knowlegeable about what they consume, the demand increases for food that is produced without depleting natural resources and is free of toxic chemicals. Artisinal food, food produced by non-industrial methods, has also become popular, he added.
“We think of the Seaport area as a perfect location for this new market,” Slater, who lives in the area, told the board. She cited the availability of mass transit.
Board interest increased when C.B. 1 district manager Paul Goldstein recalled a 2002 resolution poposing a similiar venture. At the time it was looked upon favorably, he said. “I think really what it boils down to is whether there’s a marriage, a match potential with General Growth,” the Seaport’s operator.
Janell Vaughan, the senior general manager of the Seaport mall for General Growth, sat listening and taking notes until Goldstein asked if General Growth was receptive to the proposal. “Absolutely,” Vaughan said without hesitation, “the spaces that we have on the table at the moment are the [Fulton] Fish Market stalls in the Fulton Market building.” After 184 years, when the Fish Market closed in June of 2005, its denizens moved to a modern facility at Hunt’s Point in the Bronx. The market spaces have sat empty since then.
After concerns about parking, ease of access and the impact on current Seaport tenants were aired, the committee passed a resolution urging negotiations between the New Amsterdam Public Market Association and General Growth. Goldstein noted that calling for and passing a resolution indicated the board’s interest in the proposal and would hopefully lead to a successful negotiation between the two parties.
Downtown Express is published by
Community Media LLC.
Been watching South Street Seaport's evolution for ages. Now solidly ensconced as New York's Quincy Market (i.e. a mall for tourists), it's too bad all those handsome old buildings are participants in a theme park. The fish market kept things real at certain hours till recently; hope its replacement is for locals and has some teeth.
Rays of hope I encountered on my recent visit were the Body exhibit (mind-boggling, and both art and science) and Absinthe in the Spiegeltent: Cirque du Soleil meets cabaret. Solidly entertaining and much too short.
What both these features have in common is that they're not family-friendly. I regard that as a good sign; maybe the Seaport will eventually evolve away from its touristy roots. Needs a club scene and a stop on the Second Avenue Line at Water Street and Fulton.
Volume 19 • Issue 22 | October 13 - 19, 2006
C.B. 1 backs cobblestones, green space for Peck Slip
By Skye H. McFarlane
In a heated debate Wednesday night over the future of Peck Slip, compromise won out. Community Board 1’s Seaport Committee resolved to split the difference between the two most popular concepts for the space — piazza and parkland.
Though no design has been finalized for the plaza outside the old Fulton Fish Market, the committee passed a resolution stating that any plan for the space must “incorporate a historic harbor design with landscaped areas with plantings as well as seating areas….”
Proponents of making the area an open cobblestone piazza, specifically members of the Seaport Community Coalition, stressed the area’s identity as a historic district and the touristic appeal of an uncluttered space surrounded by bustling sidewalk cafes. The park supporters, including many Seaport residents, highlighted the need for green space in the neighborhood and expressed fears that an open plaza would attract noisy street fairs by day and loitering youths by night.
“Whatever takes place there has an impact on a historic district,” said Kit White of the Seaport Community Coalition. “It doesn’t just belong to the people who live there, it belongs to everyone…It was an open, working, urban space and it should be left open as a reminder of the past.”
Jake McCabe of the Seaport Parents Association countered that as the old industrial areas become increasingly residential, local families find themselves starved for play space.
“We want to keep the history and bow to that aesthetically, but we are really interested in having green space that is usable,” McCabe said.
Coalition members also argued that as an industrial space, Peck Slip has been paved with cobblestones for over a century and that the stones give the plaza texture and character.
“I love that you use the word ‘texture,’ because people are falling all over those cobblestones,” responded Don Walsh, referring to the general state of disrepair that has emerged as Peck Slip awaits redevelopment.
Walsh, a landscape architect and Water St. resident, pointed out that historically, before Peck Slip was an industrial plaza, it was a boat slip. History, he said, was fluid and could be molded to accommodate the needs of the community — namely, wider sidewalks, through traffic and green space. After the meeting, Seaport Committee chairperson John Fratta agreed, saying he didn’t think that the Coalition members had listened enough to other Seaport residents before making their proposal.
As to traffic, the committee spurned the Coalition’s request to block the area to cars, siding instead with a city Department of Transportation recommendation to allow through traffic and on-street parking on the sidewalk side of the street (away from the center space).
The city’s Parks Department, which will oversee the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation-funded redevelopment of Peck Slip, said that Parks designers plan to take their cue from the Seaport Committee’s resolution.
“We will take into consideration the requests the community has made in this resolution and attempt to incorporate as many of the elements as possible into the design of Peck Slip,” a Parks Department spokesperson said.
© 2006 Community Media, LLC
^ A case where compromise makes sense.
Any news on what's happening with the Fish Market?