Seaport Case Dismissed

NYS Supreme Court says lawsuit challenging LPC signoff on controversial plan is too early in land use process. But Seaport Coalition may bring suit later

| 06 Oct 2021 | 12:20

A New York State Supreme Court judge dismissed a lawsuit this week that challenged the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) signing off on the Howard Hughes Corporation’s controversial plan to build a 324-foot residential in the South Street Seaport Historic District – saying it was too early in the land use process for a court to intervene.

The Seaport Coalition – a grassroots organization consisting of various community groups that have all been pushing back on the Howard Hughes Corporation’s efforts to build at 250 Water Street since they purchased the property in 2018 – filed the lawsuit in May, challenging the LPC’s decision to grant the project a certification of appropriateness. The group argued in their filing that the proposed building violates the district’s zoning law as it would exceed the height limit by 200 feet.

But with the project now in the middle of the city’s formal land use process, known as ULURP, and is waiting on approval from the City Planning Commission (CPC), Justice Arthur Engoron granted the LPC’s motion to dismiss the case, writing, “the challenged administrative action is not final and thus not ripe for judicial review.”

The Seaport Coalition, however, is free to bring its suit again, the judge wrote, when if the project makes it through ULURP.

“While, of course, the Seaport Coalition would have preferred to have prevailed on defeating the motion, it is critical to remember that the motion to dismiss had nothing to do with the merits of the case, only when the Court would intervene,” the Coalition wrote in a statement.

“Polish Our Pleadings”

The Coalition’s attorney, Saul Shapiro, too, did not view the judge’s dismissal as a loss.

“The advantage to us for having ‘lost’ the motion is that we will now have the opportunity to take advantage of the additional time to further craft, enhance, supplement and polish our pleadings that we will file,” Shapiro said in a statement.

A spokesperson for HHC applauded the court’s decision.

“We appreciate the court’s thoughtful review and quick dismissal of this lawsuit,” the spokesperson said. “Supporters around the neighborhood and across the city agree with transforming the parking lot at 250 Water Street into an architecturally distinguished building that is appropriate to the Historic District.”

The LPC chose to grant the certificate at a May hearing, voting 6-2 in favor of HHC following three presentations given to the commission. Height and bulk of the proposed designs had been the primary concern at each previous meeting, but the commission found the final design “appropriate” – the standard by which the commission judges a project in a historic district. In determining appropriateness, the LPC typically considers whether the aesthetic, architecture, materiality, as well as size are consistent with the rest of the district.

The CPC’s decision is expected in the coming weeks after holding a hearing on the project in September. If the CPC approves the tower, it would then head to the City Council. Council Member Margaret Chin, who represents the Seaport as a part of District 1, has expressed support for HHC’s proposal consistently through the review process.