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No tower at Seaport Developer backs off controversial plan for high-rise apartments near historic district File photo by Josh Rogers

Jenifer Rajkumar last ran for office in 2013, when she launched an unsuccessful primary challenge to Councilmember Margaret Chin.

Succeeding Shelly

New committee pushes Rajkumar for Silver seat

B Y D U SI CA SU E MA L E S E V IC Call it a “Draft Jenifer” movement. A group calling itself the “Women for Jenifer Committee” is supporting Downtown lawyer Jenifer Rajkumar to replace Sheldon Silver in the Assembly before the local Democratic leader has even entered the race. Just a week after Silver was convicted on federal corruption charges, the group sent out a press release on Dec. 8 touting Rajkumar’s “potential candidacy” for his seat, and featuring glowing quotes from half a dozen prominent women. “From Alice Paul to Indira Gandhi to Eleanor Roosevelt to Golda Meir to Malala Yousafzai to Hillary Clinton to Jenifer Rajkumar,” wrote Demie Kurz, a women’s studies professor at the University of Pennsylvania, “the message stays the same: Empowerment, Equality, and Perseverance.” For her part, Rajkumar said she’s flattered to be placed in such fine company, even if she hasn’t yet decided to toss her hat into the ring. “I am honored to have the support and encouragement of such an impressive group of women leaders,” Rajkumar said in a phone interview. “I am considering running.” In addition to Kurz, the committee includes Community Board 1 member and former deputy mayor Ninfa Segarra, Michigan state rep. Kristy Pagan, former head of the Women’s Campaign Fund & She Should Run Siobhan “Sam” Bennett, RAJKUMAR Continued on page 20

BY DUSICA SUE MAL ESEVIC The long dance between the Howard Hughes Corp. and the Downtown community over a tall tower at the Seaport is over. The developer confirmed Tuesday that the controversial luxury condo tower — at one time slated to be 650 feet — will not be built at the New Market building site just outside the Seaport historic district. There had been news reports last month that the tower may be scrapped, after a proposal to chop it down to 494 feet failed to placate opponents, but a Hughes executive definitively told Community Board 1 as much at its Dec.15 Seaport Committee meeting. "There will be no residential tower on that site," Chris Curry, the executive in charge of the project, said at the meeting, as first reported by Curry said Hughes would instead build a low-rise commercial building on the site. Locals who fought the tower proposal declared victory against a project they say would not have fit with the adjacent preservation district. Michael Kramer of Save Our Seaport called the defunct residential tower plan “an inappropriate use in an area that we feel is clearly in the historic district.” “It has been a public market since the 17th century and we don’t know anyone who has slept with the fishes,” he said. Many preservationists objected to the apartment tower on historical grounds, while other locals said it would have blocked their Brooklyn Bridge views. It has been a long struggle between the community and the Texas-based company over the development of the historic Seaport. The community and public officials had to lobby hard in late 2013 even to get Hughes and its landlord, the city’s Economic Development Corp., to reveal their plans. When the proposal for a 50-story tower was presented in November 2013, it was met with boos. A Seaport Working Group — comprised of elected officials, Hughes executives, CB1 members, business and preservation groups, and residents — was formed to create guidelines for development in the neighborhood. The main sticking point was a guideline on building heights and views, which stated that new buildings “should not adversely impact neighborhood scale and


Rendering courtesy of Howard Hughes

The developers of the South Street Seaport area have given up on building an apartment tower adjacent to the historic district after strong pushback from local residents and politicians.

character” and called for alternatives to the then-50story tower. CB1 chairwoman Catherine McVay Hughes said in an email that guideline was “something that the community felt very strongly about and that the views of the Brooklyn Bridge and historic ships are preserved and protected.” The developer came back with another proposal in November 2014 for a smaller, 494-foot tower and many community benefits — including $10 million for the chronically under-funded South Street Seaport Museum, a community center, marina, affordable housing at Schermerhorn Row and a middle school that would occupy three floors of the tower. The revised tower plan did have supporters. Friends of the Seaport, spearheaded late last year by three Peck Slip School parents, backed the plan — especially the middle school as Lower Manhattan has been squeezed for school seats. One of the group’s founders, Maria Ho-Burge, SEAPORT Continued on page 20

Profile for Schneps Media

Downtown Express  

December 17, 2015

Downtown Express  

December 17, 2015