This brief is part of the WHY WE FIGHT FOR THE SOUTH STREET SEAPORT series, to inform the public about the struggle to keep the Seaport historic in the face of commercial pressure. 

THE SEAPORT WORKING GROUP was an advisory body that brought together a diverse group of people concerned with the revitalization of the South Street Seaport. It was convened in 2015 by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and NYC Council Member Margaret Chin, prompted by controversy over the development plans of the Howard Hughes Corporation.

While it was strongly guided by the NYC Economic Development Corporation, which acts as the landlord for city-owned property in the South Street Seaport District, it aimed to put stakeholders with very different views (including Save our Seaport and the Hughes Corporation) into the same room to work through their differences. Notably absent from the group were the South Street Seaport Museum and New Amsterdam Market, the latter an outspoken critic of the developer.

The Working Group met 11 times over the course of nine months to hammer out details of what a revitalized South Street Seaport should look like.

The resulting document, “Principles and Guidelines,” spells out parameters for appropriate development of the area, enabling commercial growth while preserving the historic character of the neighborhood and the irreplaceable assets of the Museum. (Document available under “Resources” on the Save Our Seaport website.) It’s the most important framework for development we have, in the absence (despite years of community lobbying) of any public master plan for the area by the Hughes Corporation, which has chosen to push specific projects through the approval process piecemeal. These guidelines were instrumental in the decision by the Hughes Corp. to abandon plans for a high-rise apartment tower that had been slated for the New Market Building site.

In 2016, Manhattan Community Board 1 asked that the Seaport Working Group be reconvened to deal with two unresolved issues, the future of the New Market Building and site and the need for a new lease for the South Street Seaport Museum with the City of New York. Many voices are now calling to revive the Seaport Working Group.

Members of the Original Seaport Working Group:

Council Member Margaret S. Chin
Hon. Margaret S. Chin

Manhattan Borough President’s Office
Hon. Gale Brewer

Assemblyman Sheldon Silver
Paul Goldstein

State Senator Daniel Squadron
Mary Cooley

Congressman Jerrold Nadler
Celine Mizrahi

Community Board 1
Catherine McVay Hughes, Chair
Anthony Notaro, Vice Chair
John Fratta, Seaport/Civic Center Committee
Roger Bryom, Landmarks Committee
Jeff Galloway, Planning Committee

Howard Hughes Corporation
Chris Curry

Southbridge Towers
Paul Kefer

Local Residents
Charles Jaskel
Amanda Byron Zink
Jonathan O’Donnell
Diane Harris Brown

Lower Manhattan Cultural Council
Sam Miller

Old Seaport Alliance
Marco Pasanella

Seaport Speaks
Claire Weisz

Save Our Seaport
Michael Kramer

Downtown Alliance
Jessica Lapin

Blue School
Allison Gaines Pell

Manhattan Chamber of Commerce
Ann Kayman