By Paul Bisceglio After a small fire engulfed the South Street Seaport's Pier 17 in mid-July, a representative for the pier's owner, the Howard Hughes Corp., was on hand at a recent community meeting to address safety concerns and future development plans for the site. Michael Piazzola, the senior general manager for Hughes Corp., told members of the Community Board 1 Seaport/Civic Center Committee that no alarm was pulled during the blaze because staff are trained to report fires to supervisors, who then report the emergency directly to FDNY. The three-story building has no electronic public address system, so warning was spread by word of mouth. Committee members expressed concern that such notification would be insufficient in more severe incidents. "Had this been a more extensive fire that engulfed more of the wooden decking around the pier, this could have been a lot more catastrophic," said Committee member Paul Hovitz. The Committee asked Piazzola to change company policy to require workers to pull a fire alarm as well as report to their supervisors in the event of a fire, and suggested that they install a PA system in the building. Pier 17 is scheduled to undergo an extensive two-year construction project next year that will transform the current mall structure, built in 1980, into a modern glass shopping plaza. The Committee expressed enthusiasm for this project when it was revealed in March, but Hughes Corp. must still seek the approval of CB1 and three other city organizations to proceed. Piazzola assured that the new building would meet CB1 and the Committee's safety demands. According to Michael Levine, CB1's director of land use and planning, though, CB1 has a "shopping list" of additional mini projects they would like the construction proposal to include that would benefit community, such as a community center. They are also asking Piazzola to produce a more detailed financial plan for the new building. Howard Hughes Corp. will meet with CB1 in August to discuss the construction project.
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