From there, a new prismatic glass façade will be added, meant to evoke the jaggedness of waves. Because the base of the new structure will be cut into the building, with paths interweaving throughout, the architects argue it is a more public and inviting space, not just a wall of red corrugated metal. Through this run archways that the architects say will foster views of the Brooklyn Bridge. Some commissioners were suspicious of these view corridors while other applauded them.
“This is ultimately a very big and very complicated project with many things to consider,” commissioner Michael Goldblum said. “On the issue of the view corridor, I think it could work. It does penetrate the building and draws the visitors in and through the space, and that is what you want.”
“I don’t think the view corridor will ultimately serve as a view-through corridor, but if that’s what you want to believe, I’m willing to follow along on your dream,” commissioner Perlmutter said dismissively.
The pathways created by these corridors are meant to evoke a retail experience closer to that of shopping at small storefronts on side streets (think West Village) than inside a monolithic mall (e.g. the Time Warner Center). Adding to the openness of the experience is a rooftop lawn that doubles as a venue for concerts, films and other events.
“Right now, the property pretty much serves the tourist trade,” Mr. Pasquarelli told The Observer. “It doesn’t serve the residents or the office workers. This reconfigures and opens it to the entire city, with a better space and a better mix of activities, something that will be a draw for everyone.”
A number of commissioners were buying it—up to a point. “I’m quite in favor of this design,” Michael Devonshire said. But he expressed a major concern that was repeated over and over again.
“We seem to get the polyanna version of what could happen with signage on those upper stories, I’m deathly afraid of what could happen.” he said, referring to the glassed-in facade. “This seems to be the best-case scenario, we could be facing a worst-case scenario, but it’s gratifying to see that that’s something we can talk about later.”
With all that glass, the building could easily turn into what Commissioner Goldblum fearfully called “Times Square.” The Historic Districts Council released a rather sensational rendering to that effect. The developer has promised that is not the desired aesthetic, and it will bring all future signage to the commission for approval.
Still, most of the commissioners were satisfied with their oversight of the building.
“I think the key to this scheme is the signage,” commissioner Goldblum said. “I think the openness of the applicant to providing us as a commission with the lease date, the lease terms, things that relate to signage and cladding of the boxes, will inform the pedestrian experience of this structure. That’s critical.”
The developer also agreed to shorten a building known as the Link, a smaller shed on the western end of the pier (to those who know the pier now, it is the building with the Pizzeria Uno and random kiosks inside). Commissioners wanted to expose more of their old friend, the Tin Building, which dates to 1903. While some would have preferred even more visibility, Howard Hughes agreed on reducing it by one bay.
The development will continue to take shape, and Howard Hughes is happy to have finally dropped anchor on this project after years of working on it.
“The new Seaport balances the pier’s iconic waterfront location with a much needed community destination for shopping, dining and entertainment,” Christopher Curry, executive vice president for development, said in an email. “We will continue working closely with the City to create an unparalleled New York experience for residents, workers and visitors.”