In July 2006, a group comprising South Street Historic District residents, property owners and businesses, architects and planners, city officials, developers, waterfront experts, museum professionals, preservationists and historians came together for a two-day charrette called SeaportSpeaks 2006.

Inspiring the best ideas for a vital, authentic South Street Seaport Historic District as a place to live, work and visit, those who gathered in 2006 shared a vision informed by a respect for the area's unique, irreplaceable heritage as the original Port of New York. 


Download the materials developed at the 2006 charrette below

or navigate through the next few pages to learn what was achieved at SeaportSpeaks 2006


SeaportSpeaks 2006 Mission 

The goal of SeaportSpeaks 2006 was to ensure that whatever the future holds for the District, its roughhewn charm and maritime roots will be respected, not only because they are worthwhile in themselves, but because they draw new residents, visitors, and area workers to its piers and streets. 

“You cannot underestimate the role of the Port of New York, whose birthplace was South Street, in western civilization and world history. It is the touchstone of our experience as an international trading center, with huge ramifications and meaning not just to New Yorkers, but to the people of the world. Miraculously, South Street has survived as an historic place, but at the moment its urban and maritime character is very fragile.”
— Mark Peckham, New York State Historic Preservation Office

The South Street Seaport Historic District

is unique in the world. With its iconic tall-masted ships, piers reaching out toward Brooklyn, view corridors stretching from the Brooklyn Bridge to Governors Island, and stone-paved streets lined with 18th- and early 19th-century commercial buildings, the Seaport—site of the original port of New York—is at once the center of the world and a place apart.

This waterfront enclave is facing profound changes as its character is being transformed by residential, retail, and recreational development. It’s fragile maritime culture, kept alive until 2005 by the presence of the centuries-old Fulton Fish Market, is in need of new life and purpose.

The challenge for all involved in its future is to embrace the Seaport’s briny, rough-hewn charm; to respect its essential nature as a working waterfront and historic district; and to cherish and develop those core strengths in order to create a vibrant place to live, work, and visit that is also economically sustainable. 

Robert Simko  The Peking (four-masted barque, 1911) and the Helen McAllister (tug, 1900) at Pier 16. 

Robert Simko

The Peking (four-masted barque, 1911) and the Helen McAllister (tug, 1900) at Pier 16. 

For more than 300 years, the site of the South Street Seaport Historic District has been a place of exchange for people, goods, and ideas:

• a port where ships from as far away as Asia and Europe and as close by as Long Island docked to unload goods both exotic and humble, and where mercantile and financial businesses grew up to support that trade;

• an immigration station where newcomers disembarked for the first time on American soil and where citizens of all classes and races, from rough sailors to wealthy mer- chants, tradesmen, and immigrants mingled;

• an entry point for new ideas in art, literature, and science, where enterprises grew up to spread those ideas around the world. 

In the 1960s the unique qualities of this place – which was then being targeted for development – were recognized by a group of visionaries, led by Peter Stanford with his wife Norma, who succeeded in securing landmark status for the District’s 19th-century streetscape with its fine examples of early commercial architecture and its stone-paved streets. Here they founded a museum, acquired and restored the buildings, and brought tall-masted ships and schooners back to the docks – ships that have become beloved icons of Lower Manhattan.

With the departure of the area’s last remaining maritime business, the Fulton Fish Market, a new chapter began for this storied place, whose residential population is burgeoning and whose commercial potential is in the midst of development.