Pier 17 Restaurant Holding Up Construction in FiDi

Pier 17 South Street Seaport

A year after Hurricane Sandy, and the South Street Seaport area of the Financial District still hangs in a state of uncertainty. For decades, the Pier 17 shopping mall was a tourist jackpot. It had everything—a prime downtown location, a variety of shops and restaurants, and fantastic waterfront views. Several local businesses benefited from increased foot traffic due to their proximity to Pier 17. Though many businesses were unable to open soon after Sandy, Pier 17 was able to reopen less than a month after the superstorm. The mall had plans to undergo a massive renovation prior to the storm, and continues with those plans today.

On September 9th, the mall on Pier 17 closed for good. Store owners were forced out, making way for the multi-million-dollar renovation that had been planned for years. In its place, the Howard Hughes Corporation will develop a 300,000-square-foot complex, complete with a public 1.5-acre rooftop, an event venue, restaurants and an array of stores. A ceremonial groundbreaking for the new Pier 17 took place on October 17th. The groundbreaking could only be ceremonial, however, because one tenant has refused to vacate.

The one holdout-tenant in question is John Demane, owner of Simply Seafood, which has been operating on the pier since 1995, and according to him, his lease runs through 2020. The Howard Hughes Corporation, however, insists that the lease is expired.

The dispute is in the courts, where Hughes argues, “Although the lease agreement gave the company a 10-year lease term extension option,” a Hughes spokesman told the Tribeca Trib, “Simply Seafood was unable to exercise the option because it had breached several terms of the lease.”

Demane, however, claims that any such breach was due in part to General Growth Properties, Hughes’s predecessor, failing to deposit checks for rent in 2005. A judge was expected to rule on the case at the end of October.

If the case is ruled in favor of Hughes, Demane will immediately have to take his business elsewhere. Due to the damage to the South Street Seaport area, it is unlikely that Simply Seafood would be able to find restaurant space in the historic neighborhood. Even if Demane wins, the return of Simply Sea­food to the new mall is out of the question, according to a Hughes lawyer cited by the Trib. A buyout would likely ensue.

Win or lose, a new Pier 17 is coming to the Financial District.