New Amsterdam Market Mulls Future; This Summer’s Location Uncertain (Updated)

Christine Quinn, Margaret Chin, Robert LaValva at the New Amsterdam Market in 2010.
Christine Quinn, Margaret Chin, Robert LaValva at the New Amsterdam Market in 2010.

Here’s a bit more on yesterday’s deal paving the way for the redevelopment of the South Street Seaport and the establishment of two new food markets there.   On more than one occasion in the past few years, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and City Council member Margaret Chin stood alongside Robert LaValva, who has been the driving force behind reactivating the old Fulton Fish Market buildings, embracing his vision.  But yesterday, LaValva was nowhere in sight.

The founder of the New Amsterdam Market told us he was deeply disappointed in the final agreement, now approved by the Council,  allowing the Howard Hughes Corporation to move forward with the big project.  A side deal brokered by Quinn establishes a new market in the Link Building, adjacent to the Seaport mall, and a second facility in about half of the historic 20,000 square foot Tin Building.  The New Market Building was not part of yesterday’s agreement.

But LaValva, who wants to create a full-time food production and distribution center, hoped to make use of both historic structures since he figures about 50,000 square feet would be required.  Many questions remain unanswered; Howard Hughes has until the end of June to present the city for a plan for the buildings.  But based on what’s known now, LaValva said his organization is rethinking both it’s short-term and long-term futures.

The New Amsterdam Market has been staged outside the New Market Building since 2005.  The new season is set to begin sometime in late April or early May.  Today LaValva said he plans to confer with market supporters about the road ahead.  He’s not completely ruling out the idea of applying to be the operator inside the Tin Building food hall, but right now it doesn’t seem very appealing.  In the past few months, he said, many people have come forward to express their support for a large scale regional food center in Lower Manhattan.  He may try to get them together for a wide-ranging conversation about future options.

There’s still time to make decisions about this coming summer’s location. But LaValva said it only makes sense to stay in the outdoor location at the Seaport for another year if the New Amsterdam Market is working towards setting up a permanent home there.

UPDATE 10:43 p.m.  Here’s Council member Chin’s perspective on the market issue.  First off, her spokesperson, Kelly Magee, said the Tin Building space is really larger than 10,000 square feet because areas must be set aside for mechanical equipment and storage facilities.  The agreement requires Howard Hughes to provide at least 10,000 square feet for vendors; this is not a limit – only a minimum.  Second, she points out that the Tin Building is already located in an historic district, unlike the New Market Building.  As previously reported, the Hughes organization will have to go through a separate land use process if it decides to develop the old fish market sites; the Council will have a role in shaping any proposal.  Since the Tin Building is part of a long-term lease held by the Howard Hughes Corp., the city was in no position to simply transfer it to some other entity. Finally, Magee said the New Amsterdam Market has never presented a specific development or financial plan for the Tin Building.