Evicted Pier 17 shops face final summer at Seaport
New Yorkers will have one last summer to enjoy the South Street Seaport they’ve visited for years.
Ravaged by Superstorm Sandy, dozens of Seaport businesses are still closed, and those that were able to stay open continue to suffer, thanks to dwindling foot-traffic and a depressed aura that’s stayed since the October disaster.
Further still, the biggest transformation will come this fall, when Pier 17, known for its restaurants, shops and breathtaking waterfront view, will be torn down by the Howard Hughes Corporation, which owns the lease on the property, to make way for a glassy new complex in 2015, complete with larger stores and a green roof. There’s even a talk of a first-class hotel and apartment buildings later on.
Pier 17 businesses were supposed to be out this week, but City Council late last month granted them one last summer up to Sept. 9.
One of those businesses is House of Crepes, which closes after 10 years on Pier 17 this fall. Its owner said he won’t apply for a spot in the new complex.
"I can't stay. I'd be closed for two years," Alex Kofman said. "I don't know where I'm going to go. I have to look, but the Seaport is the best place for my business."
Kofman is skeptical that many existing tenants will return. Of 92 tenants in the Hughes' directory for the Seaport, 35 are closed. All Hughes tenants on Fulton and Front streets, including chains like the Gap and Abercrombie & Fitch, are still shuttered.
Though most shops in Pier 17 suffered little damage, Kofman said he lost 30% of business over the winter after Sandy virtually closed down the neighborhood.
"We should be looking at recovery not redevelopment," said David Sheldon, a member of Save Our Seaport and part-time sailor on the Pioneer, which is usually docked in the port. "It adds insult to injury."
Rebecca Robertson, who co-runs the boutique wine shop Pasanella and Son on South Street, said it took two months to return to pre-Sandy conditions. But even after reopening, the shop struggles with fewer customers.
Our losses “are ongoing, because we’re a neighborhood wine shop and we've lost the majority of our neighborhood," Robertson said." That's tough. Our business has really changed.”
But some officials are hoping the warmer months will help heal the area.
"I am confident that a robust summer season will help these businesses recoup the losses [from the storm]" said Councilmember Margaret Chin, whose district includes the Seaport.
While critics think redevelopment only exacerbates damage after Sandy, Tom Berton, owner of the Clipper City Tall Ship, which has sailed from Pier 17 since 2008, thinks it’s just what the area needs.
"From our standpoint a reinvigorated pier with new and greater attention was good," Berton said.
Berton, 48, wants to submit a proposal for a spot in the new complex, but will find a temporary docking point in the interim.
Unlike House of Crepes, other businesses not being evicted are still struggling after the storm.
South Street Seaport Museum, though it reopened in December, is still crippled from water damage, and some galleries in its main location will close this month for roughly two years to repair heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, the museum's general manager Jerry Gallagher said.
"We won't be able to climate control the galleries," he said.
Including the museum's facilities, roughly two-thirds of businesses not leased by Hughes are still closed after Sandy damage, said Clive Burrow, chairman of the Lower Manhattan Marketing Association.
The businesses that bounced back quickly from the storm are, for the most part, independently owned and run, without landlords dictating reopenings, Burrow said.
“After the storm, they were truly masters of their own destiny,” he said.
Multiple requests for comment from the Hughes Corporation were not returned.
(With Tim Herrera)
Plans for the new Pier 17
Redevelopment plans approved by the City Council
-- Construction will begin Oct. 1, allowing existing Pier 17 tenants to operate through Sept. 9
-- Existing tenants in good standing can also apply for retail space in the new building before Aug. 9
-- Public access will be allowed on the complex’s new green roof, which will be 40% larger
-- The new green roof allows for concerts and other events
-- New food market will open by October 2014 within the Howard Hughes’ Corporation’s leased area in the Seaport (in addition to a food market in any potential mixed-use projects in the Tin Building)
History of the South Street Seaport
1822 Fulton Fish Market opens after landfill extends Manhattan
1967 South Street Seaport Museum founded
1972 South Street Seaport listed on the National Register of Historic Places
1977 Landmarks Preservation Commission establishes the South Street Seaport Historic District (the boundaries were extended in 1989)
1981-1985 Development of Pier 17, which included the “Link Building” and the Fulton Market Building in the block bounded by Fulton, Front, Beekman and South streets
2005 Fulton Fish Market relocates to the Bronx
2010 Howard Hughes Corporation acquires the Pier 17 mall and other parts of the original 1981 lease
2011-2012 Hughes proposes a redevelopment plan of Pier 17
2013 Redevelopment plan is approved by the City Council