Children First
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Safe schools are a human right

NYSDEC releases DRAFT Remedial Investigation Work Plan (RIWP) and Citizen Participation Plan (CPP)

Click here to See all DEC updates and documents.

Advocating for the health and safety of our children.

CHILDREN FIRST is a grassroots movement led by concerned parents opposed to the unchecked development of 250 Water Street, which lies within the Historic South Street Seaport District. With lead, mercury and other harmful toxins present in the soil at 250 Water Street, any potential construction poses a serious health risk to our young children attending school nearby. Because of the underground presence of hazardous materials, no formal architectural plans submitted, and a developer with a proven history of misleading the public, we believe it is time to put Children First.

The developer, Howard Hughes Corporation (HHC), took ownership of 250 Water Street for $180 million in mid-2018. While they have not shared any formal plans with the public, it is understood that they intend to develop the lot into a residential tower as high as 70 stories tall, which far exceeds the current zoning limits. The lot in question was previously the site of three mercury thermometer factories, a chemical company and a gasoline service station. Based on site soil samples taken in 2015, we know that mercury, lead, and other hazardous materials are present underground.

Many of these hazardous materials are known toxins and threaten the health of our children. Even tiny exposures can have lifelong developmental effects on children and serious health consequences for adults as well. By digging up the site during the cleanup, hazardous toxic chemicals could easily be released into the air and carried throughout the community. Because of the nature of some of these toxins, such as mercury, the remnants of these toxins will remain long after the construction is completed.

Despite the presence of elemental mercury and other hazardous materials, the lot is currently safe and poses no health risk as long as the contaminants are left undisturbed underground.

As things stand, the community has not received any guarantee that harmful toxins will not be released into the air during the cleanup process. If these hazardous toxins are released into the air, our children and our community would be continue to be severely negatively impacted even after construction is completed.

Children First has the following demands:

  • We demand that no remediation or construction begins until there are approved plans for the development

  • We demand more rigorous tests by an independent third party on the proposed construction sites -- We do not trust HHC to protect our families

  • We demand that any proposed project stand no taller than 120 feet -- the maximum height zoned for the Historic Seaport District

  • We demand a seat at the table for all discussions and 100% transparency -- no more behind closed door negotiations

We’re calling on you to help us protect our rights, our community, and our families — particularly our young children attending school nearby.

Additional Information

250 Water Street

Site of the proposed development along with both elementary schools. The doors and windows to the schools are fewer than 20 feet from the proposed construction site

Site of the proposed development along with both elementary schools. The doors and windows to the schools are fewer than 20 feet from the proposed construction site

information about Elemental Mercury

  • Elemental mercury is the material found in thermometers and is a known neurotoxin.

  • This mercury is highly volatile and vaporizes at room temperature.

  • One pinprick worth of elemental mercury can do life-altering neurological damage to a small child.

  • However, the mercury level underground at the potential construction site is 120 parts per million.

What is a brownfield site?

  • The New York State Brownfield Cleanup Program (BCP) is a partnership between the state and a private developer where the state provides tax incentives to the developer to environmentally-remediate a site deemed to have hazardous materials present prior to construction.

  • Completion of the program releases a developer from liability and leaves tax payers on the hook if a child is harmed during the process of remediation.


  • Neurotoxins are toxins that directly affect the nervous system. Known neurotoxins present at the 250 Water Street site include mercury and lead.

  • Infants and children are especially sensitive to toxins because children are more exposed to chemicals (pound-for-pound), their organs are still developing, and their bodies are less able to detoxify than adults.

  • Children are also more vulnerable to toxins because they lack a fully developed blood-brain barrier, the structure in the central nervous system that prevents the passage of chemicals between the bloodstream and the neural tissue.

  • We must be especially careful to shield children from environmental toxins.


If the Bill of Rights contains no guarantee that a citizen shall be secure against lethal poisons distributed either by private individuals or by public officials, it is surely only because our forefathers, despite their considerable wisdom and foresight, could conceive of no such problem.
— Rachel Carson, Silent Spring


Take Action.

Join Our Movement.

Our movement depends on strength in numbers. Please join our mailing list to show our elected officials that the community cares deeply about the health and well-being of its children and the outcome of this issue.

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