Seaport Preps for Summer Pop Ups

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Trendy eateries will set up temporary shops at the South Street Seaport this summer

By Nora Bosworth

This Memorial Day weekend, the South Street Seaport will come alive again, arguably for the first time since its devastation during Hurricane Sandy.

On Wednesday, members of Community Board 1 gathered downtown to discuss both South Street Seaport's summer and long-term plans; the board met with a representative for the Howard Hughes Corporation, the seaport's long-time manager and developer.

The summer's attractions will preview the new direction South Street Seaport is taking, as they may actually draw New Yorkers, not just tourists.

"We want this to be a place that the local New York City community embraces and enjoys coming to on a daily basis," said Christopher Curry, the Senior Executive Vice President of Development for the Howard Hughes Corporation.

Until Sandy, the seaport never suffered from a dearth of visitors. (In 2011 Travel + Leisure declared South Street Seaport the 26th most visited site in the world, tied with the Great Wall of China). On the other hand, with its previous string of just-okay eateries, retail chain stores like Ann Taylor and J. Crew, and kitschy shops, it was never an epicenter for young New Yorkers looking for a good time. That may be about to change.

The summer's lineup will include a multi-story collection of pop-up stores and restaurants on Fulton and Front Streets, each housed in shipping containers - an economic and trendy solution.

Smorgasbar, the beer, wine and spirits garden that made its debut last year at the Brooklyn food fair, "Smorgasburg", will also set up camp at the seaport this summer.

Dozens of local food and beverage lines will showcase their goods, featuring foodie-hits like Blue Marble Ice Cream, Landhaus, and the Red Hook Lobster Pound.

Every Wednesday night in June, a variety of bands will perform. In the evenings, beginning July 7th for eight weeks, the seaport will project outdoor films. Audience members will recline in lounge chairs.

At the end of Wednesday's meeting, the community board voted unanimously to approve the liquor licenses needed for the festivities.

The board generally supports the summer plans, though a few questions arose during the their discussion. Some members expressed concern about noise levels for nearby residents, particularly in connection with the outdoor film series going too late into the night.

Yet perhaps the most prominent worry was whether Howard Hughes Corporation is moving forward with the construction of a permanent new seaport, not just investing in a temporary summer attraction.

"Clearly we wouldn't be going through all these efforts just to open up some pop-up stores," Curry said, addressing a member's question on this issue.

But Jason Friedman, who joined Community Board 1 in 2013, said he worries that tenants will not be interested in renting the available spaces because they are still in disrepair from the hurricane.

"By not doing anything to ready spaces, they're not helping themselves invite tenants back," said Friedman in a telephone interview, adding that he is sure Howard Hughes has "good reasons" for not expediting the permanent construction.

The corporation maintains that rebuilding the potential stores will come after they have secured new renters.

"When we find tenants to occupy those spaces, they'll build up those stores," said Curry.

John Fratta, a long-time member of Community Board 1, said he was very happy with the meeting's results. He feels his neighborhood has been historically overlooked, adding that the east side "has always been the step-child to everybody."

Fratta said one of his biggest concerns is that the original South Street businesses that had to be shut down, either during Sandy or Howard Hughes' construction, be granted a slot in the revolutionized seaport, if they want it.

All in all, however, he is excited the Seaport will be resurrected come Memorial Day. Friedman echoed this sentiment.

"I thought it was great for the summer," Friedman said of the plan. "After that is a question mark."

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