Since the earliest days of New York City --when it was still known as New Amsterdam-- there have been public markets and market sheds along the East River in Lower Manhattan. Remarkably, the neighborhood now called the "South Street Seaport" (in fact a 19th century Market District) preserves the last two such riverfront market sheds ever to be built: the Old Market (Tin Building), constructed in 1907; and the New Market, inaugurated by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in 1939, both occupied by the Fulton Fish Market until 2005.
New Market Building (1939) photo by Barbara Mensch (circa 1982)
In 2006, New Amsterdam Market began advocating the rehabilitation of these two irreplaceable city-owned assets, while retaining their function as wholly public markets. This position reflected the original Vision for the Seaport, endorsed in 1968 by City Hall, ordinary citizens from all five Boroughs, and the philanthropic community: that this District's buildings, streets, and piers be preserved intact for future generations, and given authentic new uses reflecting local history while meeting contemporary needs.
Old Market (Tin) Building (1907) photo by Barbara Mensch (circa 1985)
While the vision we articulated evolved and gained detail over the years, its fundamental principles remained unaltered: public assets must be used for public purposes, as determined via a transparent planning process.
To realize the potential and public purpose of New York City's original port and market district, we the undersigned endorse the following course of action for the District now called the South Street Seaport:
1) There will be no further disposition of any public-owned properties in the District to private developers, particularly the Tin Building and New Market Building, but also a number of other public assets that are not part of the 1981 "Marketplace" lease between the New York City Economic Development Corporation and Howard Hughes*, as well as all assets now leased by the South Street Seaport Museum
2) These assets will be restored with public and philanthropic funds, and retained for community and other civic uses, which will include a public market as envisioned and proposed by New Amsterdam Market, and a reinvented and robust Seaport Museum
3) The New York City Landmarks Designation for the South Street Seaport Historic District will be extended to include the New Market Building
4) All public properties in the Seaport District and along the East River waterfront in Lower Manhattan will be governed by a dedicated Local Development Corporation (LDC) or similar authority, as advocated by the 2006 SeaportSpeaks conference
5) Future development, programming, and use of all city-owned properties in the South Street Seaport Historic District will be determined by this dedicated LDC via a transparent and comprehensive planning process that includes community input.
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The public testimony, discussions with the press, and informational materials compiled in the documents section of this website represent the many years of advocacy for this specific vision.
*Including but not limited to 1) the space located on the second stories of certain Buildings on the Museum Block known as 207, 209, and 211 Water Street (the “Water Street Galleries”) [*note LOI is in error]; 2) the premises located on the second through fifth floors of 14-18 Fulton Street, 189-195 Front Street and 159 John Street and the entrance areas to such properties (collectively, the “Schermerhorn Apartments”); 3) the Tin Building and the Land on which the Tin Building is currently located (the “Tin Building Site”); 4) The New Fish Market Building and the Land on which the New Fish Market Building is located; 5) the Land (the “Waterfront Premises”) under the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Drive, along the waterfront and abutting the easterly side of South Street, from the southerly side of Pier 15 to the southerly side of Peck Slip; and 6) the first and second floors of the building known as 133 Beekman Street (the “Translux Property”); and also the empty lot on the corner of John Street and South Street.