Thursday, June 25, 2009


This from the Columbia Waterfront Neighborhood Association (Click here for their website)

"Phoenix Beverages taking over Piers 7 and 11 and the future use of the Atlantic basin have been very contentious issues for our neighborhood. So, we are excited to announce that Venetia Lannon, VP of the NYC Economic Development Corporation, will be giving a presentation and be available for questions at our next General Meeting.

- The salt pile on ASI's piers
- A presentation by the NYC Economic Development Corporation on plans for Atlantic Basin
- A presentation of Senator Squadron's plans for Brooklyn Bridge Park

Time: 7 PM, July 1st
Place: Jalopy, 315 Columbia St (between Woodhull and Rapelye St.)"

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

L.A Times - "Ship pollution: EPA 'not responsive,' inspector says"

There was an article recently in the L.A Times (here), calling out the E.P.A. for its failure to protect Americans from pollution from oceangoing ships.

I discovered it when I was looking at some information on port pollution at the Natural Resources Defense Council's web site (here). If you search for "port pollution" on the NRDC web site, you will find many stories, blog entries, etc. about port pollution.

My awareness of the L.A Times article, and its discussion of the EPA's Office of the Inspector General (IG) recently issued 80-page report, came via the writing of David Pettit in his blog (here).

There is much other interesting information in his piece -

E.P.A Gives Port Pollution Failing Grade

David Pettit
Director, Southern California Air Program, Santa Monica, CA
Blog | About
"a July 2008 NOAA study (that) "found that emissions from shipping have a significant impact on air quality and health on both local and regional scales. Extensive measurements of the emissions of light absorbing carbon aerosol, or soot, from commercial shipping showed increased concentrations of this aerosol at U.S. ports on the East Coast, West Coast, and Gulf Coast. The study also suggested that large oceangoing vessels may emit up to twice as much aerosol as previously estimated."

He also says -

"the EPA itself recently conducted an initial screening level analysis on the size of the U.S. population living near 47 marine ports and 37 rail yards. The results indicate that at least 13 million people, including a disproportionate number of low-income households -- many African-American and Hispanic families -- live in the vicinity of port-related facilities and are exposed to toxic levels ambient diesel particulate matter."

This is not news to anyone who has been reading this blog. There are statements made by the EPA itself on the sidebar of this blog that refer to the carcinogenic effect of these emissions and that speak directly to the danger they pose to our most vulnerable - children included. However, it's heartening to see that more people are writing about these important issues - ones that affect all of our neighborhoods of Red Hook, Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill - and are therefore raising awareness of it.

Once people realize what an important issue this is, hopefully there will be pressure put on the likes of the E.P.A., and on the EDC and Port Authority, considering the decisions being made by them affecting our community (the expansion of Red Hook container terminal, more container ships, more truck pollution, etc.) to act to protect people from the impact of these emissions and ensuring the already available solutions are put in place to mitigate these impacts.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Waterwire Article - Growing Container Ship Traffic in NYC, and no "shore power".

Did anyone get the interesting article from Waterfront Alliance's publication, Waterwire, "Modernizing NYC's Maritime Infrastructure"? I received it via email but you can view it (here).

In it is described the anticipated growth in container ship traffic and size of container ships in NYC ports in the coming years (partially facilitated by the expansion of the Panama Canal) and the challenges faced by New York City ports to accommodate this growth. There is mention made of the (EDC) New York City Economic Development Corporation's expansion of the Container Terminal in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and Venetia Lannon and Andrew Genn from the EDC's Maritime Section are quoted as advocating to "expand and revitalize the City's maritime infrastructure". It is also mentioned that the number of containers received at Red Hook, (and I assume number of ships) is growing as a result of their policies.

The article goes on to unfortunately misstate the facts about the status of the proposed "shore power" infrastructure and practice at the Cruise Ship Terminal, implying that this practice is already in place. The article states -

"In other waterfront modernization, the City has introduced shore power at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, allowing ships to turn off their engines while docked."

Unfortunately this isn't so for the Cruise Terminal - and, most troubling, has not even been proposed at the Container Terminal despite its imminent expansion, so it prompted me to write this email to Waterwire.


To whom it may concern,

In your recent article I received by email, "Modernizing NYC's Maritime Infrastructure", you are addressing the situation of future increased port activity in the New York City area ports.

It's a very interesting article with many important facts raised and questions asked. However, in your article you state,

"In other waterfront modernization, the City has introduced shore power at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, allowing ships to turn off their engines while docked. At Pier 9A in Red Hook, diesel cranes have been electrified to reduce air pollution."

I am sorry to say this is not the case - there has been a commitment by the Port Authority and Carnival Cruises, who operate the ships, to do these improvements at the Cruise Terminal and with the ships (I'm not sure about the state of play with the cranes right now), however, the situation with the Cruise Terminal and the proposed implementation of "shore power", otherwise known as "cold ironing", has not been resolved and is in limbo at this time.

I urge you to read a recent article in the Brooklyn Paper, "Idle talk! Deal to power down cruise ships sinks", by Mike McLaughlin -

... and indeed I've covered this issue extensively in my blog - - as there has been a jurisdictional conflict yet to be resolved about from whom the Port Authority receives its power, and accordingly how a "shore tariff" (rate of power supply) will be attained to make the implementation of this practice economically viable.

Even if all of this is achieved, the Port Authority's spokesperson, Port Authority General Manager William Nurthen, who spoke at a meeting at one of our public schools in January this year on this very matter, said that the plan wasn't to go into effect for a number of years years - goodness knows when, considering this latest snafu ... leaving our children to breath the ships' - container and cruise - carcinogenic and harmful extra-dirty diesel smoke for years to come. (please read my blog's sidebar for the EPA's statements on the harmful and carcinogenic effects of ship emissions).

You would have been right to say these improvements are planned, however, they are certainly not already in place - something blatantly obvious to me as, at this very moment from my stoop, I watch the smoke bellowing out of the Queen Mary 2's smokestack. Also disappointingly, considering your article's subject matter about the foreseen increase in shipping and while we await the imminent expansion of the Red Hook Container Terminal, facilitated by the EDC and the Port Authority, these aforementioned entities have said nothing about mitigating the negative - and yes, I'll say it again, harmful and carcinogenic - effects of the pollution created by the Container Terminal's expansion. No commitment has been made to implement "shore power" at the Container Terminal with the container ships, as has been the case with the Cruise Terminal, and indeed, Red Hook residents are basically being told to suck it up.

I think it would be helpful if you corrected this inaccurate information - in fact I think it would be of great value for you to publish a story on this issue. Many of us have been fighting to raise awareness of the negative effects of port emissions that have been a burden - frustratingly an avoidable one - on our residents for many, many years - most egregiously on our most vulnerable. We need accurate information out there so that those who are impacted, and those who can do something to mitigate these impacts, are motivated to work together to address the harmful effect these emissions are having on our neighborhoods ....

.... according to your article, even more so in the future.

Thanks for your attention to this important matter,

Adam Armstrong and Family

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

NYCEDC wants to "Fix the Ditch" - Not the Docks

It was great to read Katia's post on "Pardon Me For Asking" about the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) looking for a consultant to "Fix the Ditch". i.e. address the issues of pollution and noise that are created by the BQE where it cuts through Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill.

Dan Wiley, who represents Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez, had brought up the fact that this was on the Congresswoman's agenda when he attended a meeting on May 21st convened by Council Member Sara Gonzalez at which members of the EDC, representatives from the Port Authority and other community representatives were brought together to allow the EDC and PA to explain their latest plans for the Red Hook, Brooklyn piers - specifically Pier 11 and the Atlantic Basin. This meeting had been convened, partially, to address the fact that CM Gonzalez hadn't been informed about the recent signing of a lease between the EDC and Phoenix Beverages for the Red Hook location, even though she had been intimately involved in the issue and had been supporting a compromise plan to allow for the accommodation of Phoenix Beverages, the New York Water Taxi, and Portside NewYork on that site.

Anyway, as part of the discussion, the matter of the Port Authority and EDC expanding the operations of the Container Terminal with the signing of this lease, and the fact that no environmental study was being done to assess the impact of this expansion was brought up. It was noted that "shore power" for the idling ships was being looked at at the Cruise Terminal, but NOT at the Container Terminal, despite the known harmful effects of ship smoke-stack emissions - stated by the EPA as being "carcinogenic" and "harmful to the pubic generally, and especially to our children, the elderly, people with lung disease, those who exercise outside, and low-income and minority communities located near ports." ( see the side bar of this blog for all of the EPA statements )

The EDC and Port Authority were silent on this question - apart from a statement from the Port Authority representative that there were "less ships than ever" at the Red Hook Container terminal ... and the affirmation that (and I'm paraphrasing here) he'd been in shipping for decades, and what would I (who had asked the question) know about shipping?

Well, I wish I'd remembered to say that last time I had the opportunity to ask a question to a Port Authority representative about why they hadn't instigated the practice of "cold ironing" or "shore power" at the Cruise Terminal when it was being planned and built, so as to have it already operating when the terminal was first opened, instead of 6 years later (as it will be if they manage to get it up and running in the time frame they are hoping for) - that representative's answer was that they, the Port Authority, hadn't known about it beforehand. Astoundingly, the representative from the Port Authority (presumably with a long history in shipping, as with the other gentleman I mentioned) when asked when he personally first heard of the "shore power" alternative, said he'd only heard of it a couple of years before.

Wow. This seemed amazing to me, considering I'd written my first letter to Mayor Bloomberg concerning this matter in 2005 when the terminal was being built, and the practice was already being implemented on the West Coast then - not to mention other parts of the world. Why was I (not a shipping expert) aware of this before they were? Or was it just a way for them to establish plausible deniability? Mmm.

So, getting back to the meeting - the question was being asked why the issue of the pollution created by the expansion of the Container Terminal was not being addressed, studied, acted on, etc. - especially considering the known facts about increased cancer and asthma incidences around ports directly connected to these ship emissions. It was then that Dan Wiley brought up the fact that this push from Congresswoman Velazquez to deal with the BQE trench was partially in response to the clusters of cancer (and asthma, I believe) along the length of the BQE. The covering of the trench, and the resulting improvement of air quality around the trench would result in health improvements for the people in the neighboring residential areas of Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens.

Good job. What a great idea - and what a terrific opportunity to reconnect severed neighborhoods and improve the health of the people living in those neighborhoods.

And so, as we see from the "Pardon Me For Asking" post, the EDC, as seen by its seeking of this consultant, is moving ahead to ensure this positive result is achieved for our neighborhoods.

I just can't help but wonder why the EDC - their Maritime Department - have shown such lack of regard for the same population who are being affected by the carcinogenic emissions of the Container Ships?

Why are the ships being let off the hook? Why aren't the effect of their extra-dirty diesel fumes being mitigated when there's an alternative - read the side bar of this blog to get a good idea of what we're talking about here. One ship = 12,000 cars. The operations of the Container Terminal are expanding and no environmental impact study is required - nor felt to be morally responsible?

Pollution mitigation. Reconnecting of neighborhoods. Improved health for already affected populations. Aren't they worthy goals for Red Hook too? Wouldn't they be important improvements for the quality of life in all of our neighborhoods?

According to the EDC and the Port Authority, apparently not.

Unfortunately, it seems as though the EDC is happy to help "Fix the Ditch", but not the Docks.

Friday, June 12, 2009

PortSide New York - Fundraiser Tomorrow.

A slightly tangential subject to my usual ones, but wanted to send out a little reminder that the previously mentioned PortSide New York fundraiser is happening this Saturday at the Brooklyn Lyceum, 6-9pm.

PortSide, who you might know from (among other things) their staging of a Puccini Opera on their ship in 2007, providing tours of the same, and more recently providing kayaking valet at Valentino Pier are, in their own words, " a young, innovative non-profit. Our chief ambassador is a 172’ repurposed ship, the Mary A. Whalen. We are planning a maritime hub in Atlantic Basin, Red Hook, Brooklyn."

PortSide is one of the few remaining "people friendly" elements left in the EDC's plan for the Atlantic Basin, as I have written about recently in my post, (here), and also covered in the recent article in the Brooklyn Courier, by Gary Buiso (here) . Thankfully, PortSide's eventual presence at the Alantic Basin will provide another terrific addition to the cultural activities in Red Hook, along with the great galleries (think Kentler and many more), the BWAC exhibition, Dancing in the Streets, Falconworks and their "Off The Hook" series, Dance Theatre Etcetera, the Waterfront Museum and historic barge (Circus Sundays in June!) , and many others. PortSide will be also offering a small portion of much needed public access to the waterfront and with the docking of their ship, the Mary Whalen, will be allowing us to get a glimpse of what the Atlantic Basin used to be - and in my mind's eye, what it still could be - a vibrant harbor.

PortSide, after much uncertainty, seem to have found their home in the Atlantic Basin and seem destined to be residents of that harbor, whatever happens there, as they would also have been accommodated in the "compromise plan" that was put forward by Tom Fox's Red Hook based New York Water Taxi, supported widely in the community, but nonetheless rejected by the EDC and Port Authority. (I wrote a bout this at the end of my last post , starting from "A little P.S.").

Details of the fundraiser can be found on PortSide's website (here) , but the basic rundown is as follows.

Thanks to Chris at "The Word on Columbia Street" blog, from whom I pinched this information - you do it so well, Chris. (Here's a link to their post)

Sat 6/13/09, 6-9pm
Tickets $50
At Brooklyn Lyceum (227 Fourth Avenue at President Street)
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Tickets available here

The event will include a large-format multimedia installation, robust cheese + charcuterie, beer and wine.

Their release about the site is as follows:
PortSide NewYork is thrilled to announce that we are soon to get our first publicly accessible home, your new home on the waterfront. The New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) is negotiating directly with PortSide NewYork to create a home for us in Atlantic Basin, next to the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. This will include a berth for the Mary Whalen, a pier where we will host visiting vessels of every description, and an interior space that will house programs and interpretive spaces. Visible from PortSide will be huge cruise and container ships, gantry cranes at work, tugboats, charter, excursion and historic vessels.
Proceeds from PortSide’s first fundraiser will support planning and interim programming in Atlantic Basin.

There will also be an online auction of the following items:

(4) tours for two led by American Stevedoring up to the top of a gantry crane in the Red Hook containerport (government-issued photo ID needed to enter port). See the port from a spectacular vantage point!

(30) Tickets (in several packages) on SeaStreak ferry from Manhattan to Sandy Hook, NJ beach where nearby offerings include historic military base, Victorian seaside towns and a nude beach.

(2) tickets aboard NYC’s largest sailing charter vessel, and the newest one in town, The Clipper City. At 140’ long, this topsail schooner will take your breath away!

A piece of Red Hook history! 1916 six-burner Lafayette wood/coal cookstove from a house on Dikeman Street.

(1) dinner for two with waterbloggers Tugster and Bowsprite, Will Van Dorp and Christina Sun, two charming harbor savants, at a harborside location TBD.

2 hour introductory private blacksmithing lesson taught by Marsha Trattner at She-Weld, Van Dyke Street, Red Hook, NYC’s first and only blacksmithing classes.

Morgan 24 sailboat (reserve must be met)

Good luck Carolina - hope you have a blast!

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Courier Talks Container Ships (in print, not on-line ... Huh?)

MONDAY EVENING UPDATE : The Courier article is now available on-line in its entirety. Follow link below.

Gary Buiso has an excellent article in the Carroll Gardens / Cobble Hill Courier this week (on line, in truncated form - here - perhaps censored would be a better term. Ha!) about the scaling back of the "people friendly" elements of the New York City Economic Development Corporation's (EDC) plans for the expansion of the operations of the Container Terminal into Pier 11 at the Atlantic Basin, at the foot of Pioneer Street in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

The article mentions the EDC's recent statement that the public access element of this plan is "not a done deal", and also brings up the lack of inclusion of the Governor's Island Ferry or even a water taxi stop in the new incarnation, as was previously promised by representatives of the EDC at many public meetings.

The EDC, Gary reports, has also given Phoenix Beverages (their new tenants with a 20-year lease at Pier 11) a 7-year window to convert their trucks to CNG - a cleaner, but nonetheless carbon monoxide polluting alternative to diesel. This time frame is much longer than residents had asked for and what was publicly indicated would be the case by the EDC. This combined with the revelation that still at least 30% of the expected 200 truck trips a day would be via Bowne Street - a street that is also the access to the Cruise Terminal and seen as problematic by locals and neighborhood representatives, including Columbia Waterfront Neighborhood Association, because of existing traffic issues, limited morning access to the BQE and the problems envisioned with the imminent reconstruction of Van Brunt Street - does not bode well for truck pollution and congestion in our already challenged neighborhoods.

The point that I'm personally thankful Gary made is (and this, curiously, is only available in the print edition, not on-line) -

If the Port Authority, who are the pier's landlords, are

"exploring the possibility of cruise ships cutting their on-board power supply and us(ing) the mainland power grid (when in port)",

why is it that the Port Authority, considering their recent deal to expand the operations of the Container Terminal ...

"is not pledging to do the same with the container ships that use the terminal(?)"

Anyone who reads this blog knows about "cold ironing" and its environmental and health benefits, but this is the first time I've heard the the question asked as to why this is not being looked at as a possibility at the Container Terminal, especially given its imminent expansion and the growing awareness of the harmful effects of container ship pollution to our most vulnerable populations.

So the answer from the Port Authority's spokesperson, Steve Coleman?

"It would be complicated ..... "

... explaining that it's easier to do this conversion with the cruise ships as they're all operated by Carnival, however, at the Container Terminal,

"Red Hook is served by all different shipping lines so it would be much more difficult."

Complicated? Difficult?

Do you know what's difficult, Mr. Coleman? Swallowing the fact that the Port Authority and the EDC is willing to allow our residents to be taken for granted, their health put at risk and our children's lungs to be filled with carcinogenic and asthma inducing smoke, so you can satisfy your bottom-line concerns and obtain cheaper rent at Howland Hook in some murky trade-off, while you quibble about difficulties and complications.

If it's so difficult and complicated, why is such a plan, including a clean truck program, being put into place on the West Coast, in Long Beach and other ports? (story here) Are they smarter than us?

Until you come up with a plan to mitigate the impact your pollution is having on the residents of Red Hook, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill and beyond, the Port Authority bears the responsibility for the impact these operations have on us. Your decisions affect us all directly. People are not numbers, pie-charts and percentages in the EDC's slick power point presentations, complete with glossy, newly-painted trucks and photographs of the piers that crop out the housing belonging to the very residents and small businesses who are the piers' closest neighbors and are impacted most directly by their operations. There are real people being affected by your plans. It's your responsibility to make sure we're not treated as just "collateral damage" in the wake of your - as the Port Authority's Executive Director, Chris Ward, put it directly to me - "business decision".

A little P.S. -

One thing I would like to clarify regarding this article. Gary Buiso states that the plan proposed by the EDC foiled a "rival scheme", proposed by Tom Fox, his Red Hook based New York Water Taxi operation and the Durst Organization, to build a "man made beach, dry dock marina and other amenities" at the Pier 11 / Atlantic basin location.

The article also states that the Water Taxi plan was "favored" by this blogger and "some local residents".

The plan that was favored by me and a vast majority of our community, including representatives from Red Hook Houses, small businesses (a petition was signed by many of them), local businessman Greg O'Connell, 100 + residents and store owners who signed the "Red Hook Info" letter sent to over a dozen representatives, CM Sara Gonzalez, Red Hook Civic Association and its Chairman, John McGettrick, members of the Columbia Waterfront Neighborhood Association, and more ... ( including 1000+ people who sent postcards to Mayor Bloomberg) ..

... the plan favored by us, worked on by many and articulated clearly to the EDC in many public meetings and to the Port Authority in writing, was a "compromise plan", which would have allowed for the accommodation at the Red Hook piers of Phoenix Beverages, the New York Water Taxi's plan with their current 100+ jobs plus more with their expansion into the Atlantic Basin harbor, as well as the operations and cultural activities of Portside New York - who are incidentally having a fundraiser this Saturday (Info here).

That was the plan we wanted - a "2-fer", a "win-win" scenario for us all with all the jobs, all the benefits to the community, including to the small businesses on our commercial strips, and an environmentally responsible plan to implement all this.

The thing that has truly been "foiled" by this "plan", is the exercise of common sense, respect of community sentiment and needs, transparency and truthfulness in these type of dealings and the good conscience that any development should not impact the health of the community in which it occurs.

Yep - foiled again!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Health risks of shipping pollution have been 'underestimated' - Guardian, UK

"One giant container ship can emit almost the same amount of cancer and asthma-causing chemicals as 50m cars, study finds"

- John Vidal, environment editor, Thursday 9 April 2009 15.50 BST

A fellow concerned neighbor sent me the link to this story from The Guardian.

I think it serves as an appropriate follow up to my previous post about the Container Port in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

Thanks Mr. F.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Hey Mike! It's the Container Ships, Too.

Thanks to Mike McLaughlan for his piece in the Brooklyn Papers today about the ongoing process of obtaining a "shore power tariff" for Red Hook's Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, to allow the cruise ships to "plug-in" to shore power when they're in port so they can stop idling their carcinogenic fume emitting diesel engines (For each container or cruise ship roughly equivalent to 12,000 cars a day/ship).

Great that he's drawing attention to the fact that the Public Service Commission kicked the ball over to the New York Power Authority (NYPA) , stating that this case was not in their jurisdiction as the Port authority gets their power from the NYPA and therefore they would have to decide on the case. Why the PA didn't know this fact and asked the PSC to hear their case anyway is a bit of a mystery - surely the PA knows from where it gets its power, right?

I do however have a gripe (a word Mike's previously used about me, as well as "groused" and "fumed" in this recent story - so I'm sure he takes no offense). My gripe is that the story hardly touches on the fact that the Container Terminal has recently been given the green light for expansion from both the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and the Port Authority itself.

Though there is mention of this in Mike's article, the piece doesn't shine light on the fact - one that I brought up with him, and have written about extensively on this blog - that nothing has been said during the recent planning for the Container Terminal expansion regarding the carcinogenic emissions from the container ships that this expansion will create. That is a little disappointing.

This was also the case with the the planning and building of the Cruise Terminal, when the facts about the dangerous emissions of ships, their impact on our most vulnerable, and the ways to alleviate these impacts were all ignored - leaving the residents of Red Hook, Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill breathing the dangerous fumes until, 5 long years later, and thankfully, this recent commitment by the PA and Carnival Cruises to instigate the process to set up a shore power system.

So, NOW, after that debacle, and looking at this recent 20-year lease to expand the operations of the container terminal, the EDC and Port Authority has made no such commitment to the shore-power hook up for the Container Terminal. They have not committed to an environmental impact study, and are essentially saying to our residents, "suck it up".

The Port Authority is dong this deal, as I found out when I attended their recent Board Meeting, to make sure its "bottom line" is taken care of, with little regard for the long-term impact on our neighborhoods.

This is despite the fact the Port Authority and EDC have in their hands the alarming facts about the impact of ship emissions, which were presented as part of the PA's own case for asking for the shore power rate.

The facts that were presented came directly from the EPA, our Environmental Protection Agency, who as a non-active party presented them in support of the pro-shore power case.

Here are a couple of the more salient points made by the EPA.

(The rest are on the side bar of this blog)

"EPA comments as follows:

Ocean going vessels that dock in New York City typically burn high sulfur fuel in diesel engines to generate auxiliary power.

This combustion results in exhaust containing NOx, SOx and particulates and such exhaust is a likely carcinogen.

Such air emissions are harmful to the pubic generally, and especially to our children, the elderly, people with lung disease, those who exercise outside, and low-income and minority communities located near ports."

It was also argued in the case for shore power that -

"A shore power Tariff would reduce combustion of No 6 (sic) on ships and avoid significant air emissions and have positive environmental and environmental justice impacts discussed fully in EPA's comments"

Also noted was this -

"The possibility that a shore power tariff may be more effective for cargo ships instead of cruise ships is an issue that would be considered in the collaborative process."

(On reason for this, I'm told, is that container ships usually stay longer in port and "idle" for the whole time - AA)

So the Port Authority and the EDC knows that the container ships are just as problematic as, if not more than, the cruise ships, however they are hoping, again, that we won't notice and that they can get this expansion of the Container Terminal done hastily, without the Environmental Impact Study that is, if not legally, then at least morally required.

I say let's slow down, shine some light on this issue, allow for the facts to come out, and assess what should be done. Why are we rushing into this long-term situation, when the long-term detrimental effects on our most vulnerable are only just coming to light.

Again, we need more coverage of this issue.

Mike, and your colleagues - Over to you.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Where's the Press on Port Emissions?

"British politician Edmund Burke said there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters' Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all." (Wikipedia)

I'm amazed at the lack of coverage on the issue of port emissions in the media.

As I've mentioned earlier, I've been aware of this issue since the planning of the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal nearly 5 years ago. In 2005, when I found out about the dangerous polluting nature of ships' smoke-stack emissions (both cruise and container) when idling in port and realized there was a way to stop those emissions through a shore-power connection (cold ironing), I wrote to the Mayor's Office to find out whether they were pursuing this process at the soon to be completed Cruise Terminal. Someone from the city wrote back that they weren't, at that time.

It was shocking to me considering the claim that they were building a "state of the art" terminal in Red Hook. Where was the not-so-state-of-the-art technology to make sure its operations weren't poisoning the locals residents?

I wrote a few more emails at that time to various politicians and to local newspapers, to no avail.

In 2007, when Mayor Bloomberg was talking about his PlaNYC initiative, I wrote another email asking whether, given the Mayor's espoused "green" credentials and initiatives - a big part of PlaNYC - he was pursuing these pollution mitigating practices at the ports in Red Hook.

In January, 2008 I got this reply -

Dear Mr. Armstrong:

Thank you for contacting Mayor Bloomberg with your concerns about emissions at cruise ship and container terminals. Here at the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning & Sustainability – the office charged with the creation and implementation of PlaNYC, a comprehensive plan for the sustainability of New York City – we share your concern about the emissions from Port facilities, both air and marine.

One of PlaNYC’s 14 air quality initiatives is “to partner with the Port Authority to reduce emissions from Port facilities.” Indeed, 11% of local particulate matter and 13% of our locally-generated NOx come from these sources. Together with the Port Authority, we are developing a comprehensive air quality and greenhouse gas emissions plan. As you say, solutions include electric plug-ins at ports, clean auxiliary power units, and port towing. For marine solutions, Senior Policy Advisor for Air Quality, Carter Strickland, is discussing the logistics of a California-type legislation with Con Edison and shipping lines.

Hopefully we will get there soon.

James Hicks | Analyst, Long Term Planning & Sustainability | Mayor's Office of Operations | 253 Broadway, 10FL New York, NY 10007 | 212.788.1457

Also in 2007, I had written letters about this issue to the media, including the Brooklyn Papers and the Brooklyn Courier. Gersh Kuntzman, editor of the Courier emailed back saying his paper would get on the case.

They didn't.

Late last year I again tried to get the two Brooklyn newspapers interested in the idea of covering the story. I emailed Mr. Kuntzman who apologized and admitted they had indeed "dropped the ball". Still no story.

Earlier this year, after the Port Authority announced that they were going to invest in the infrastructure - at the Cruise Terminal only - and finally implement a shore-power hook up (after apparently only hearing about the practice, as the representative from the PA stated "a couple of years ago!!"), the Brooklyn Papers and Courier finally did a story. (Story here)

Jake Mooney from the NY Times also did an in-depth story on the ship emission issue, with a bit more on the City Room blog.

Charles Bagli, who covers port issues for the New York Times has done nothing on this issue.

Since the aforementioned articles by these journalists, there has been nothing more written on this issue.

The fact that in April the Public Service Commission was deciding upon the mandating of a shore power rate, one that would allow this cold ironing to happen at the Cruise Terminal at least, has not been covered in the press at all. If the media shone a light on this issue, wouldn't it at least shame the power suppliers into giving the port a cheap power rate - one that would allow for this practice to be economically viable, and to keep the carcinogenic smoke out of our kids' lungs?

With the recent lease being signed between the EDC and the Port Authority, the operations of the Container Terminal is now being expanded.

At the container port no commitment has been made to shore-power connection, nor a clean truck program, nor other pollution abatement measures with this expansion. Indeed, no Environmental Impact Study is required, according to the EDC.

Shouldn't the press be, again, shining a light on this very important issue - one that affects all of our neighborhoods - Red Hook, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill and beyond?

Even with the coverage of the process, the press has been absent, allowing for the EDC and Port Authority to push their plans with the barest amount of scrutiny and public awareness - especially regarding the environmental and health impacts the expansion of the container terminal will bear on our residents. Politicians have also been absent on this issue, with not one speaking about it publicly, as far as I have seen, and no questions being put to them by the press.

It prompted me to write this letter to some members of the press, and blogs as well, as I've seen nothing about this on any of the big Brooklyn blogs either.

Dear members of the press,

May I give you a story line for an article?

1) - Announcement made that cruise ships will get shore-power (cold ironing) at Brooklyn terminal - Port Authority / Carnival Cruises are on board with committed investment for infrastructure and retrofitting ships, respectively. (you all covered this)

It is stated by representative of PA, at Public meeting at PS15, that the only obstacle to this goal is getting the appropriate tariff (power rate) from Con Ed to make this economically viable, with the hope to have it obtained via a Public Service Commission (PSC) hearing and decision.

2) - On April 27, 2009, the Public Service Commission meets, but decides the setting of this special shore-power rate is not in their jurisdiction, as the New York Power Authority (NYPA) supplies power to the Port Authority. PSC says the case should be pursued through the NYPA.

3) - However, in the case presented to the PSC in support of obtaining the shore-power rate, facts about the polluting nature of cruise and container ships is presented to the Commission.

This information, which follows in the excerpt from the attached PDF document, is supplied by (no less than) the Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.).

"Region 2 of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is not an active party. However it filed comments in favor of Shore Power Tariff.

EPA comments as follows:

  • a. Shore power is a crucial step for cleaning our air and improving health of New Yorkers.
  • b. Ocean going vessels that dock in New York City typically burn high sulfur fuel in diesel engines to generate auxiliary power.
  • This combustion results in exhaust containing NOx, SOx and particulates and such exhaust is a likely carcinogen.
  • A Port Authority study shows that use of shore power at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal would annually eliminate 100 tons of NOx, 100 tons of SOx and 6 tons of particulates
  • c. New York City air quality is among the worst in the nation and port related emissions are meaningful and avoidable."
  • d. Such air emissions are harmful to the pubic generally, and especially to our children, the elderly, people with lung disease, those who exercises outside, and low-income and minority communities located near ports.
  • e. Implementation of a shore power tariff is consistent with economic development in New York City.
  • f. Implementation of an appropriate Shore Power Tariff in New York City would provide an impetus for ship owners to invest in ship-side Shore Power equipment and for widespread use of this technology in other ports on the East Coast.
  • g. None of the Company's tariff's accurately account for the unique service characteristics of ships that dock in New York City.
  • h. A high-rate setting working group charged with delivering a shore power recommendation should be convened quickly.

It was also argued in the case for shore power that - "A shore power Tariff would reduce combustion of No 6 (sic) on ships and avoid significant air emissions and have positive environmental and environmental justice impacts discussed fully in EPA's comments"

Also noted was, "The possibility that a shore power tariff may be more effective for cargo ships instead of cruise ships is an issue that would be considered in the collaborative process."

Meanwhile, the NYCEDC pushes ahead with their plan, as Venetia Lannon described it, to "grow the container terminal" by relocating Phoenix Beverages to Pier 11 and the Atlantic Basin. Along the way the nearly unanimous call from Red Hook residents and small businesses for more input, consideration of the broader economic development of the neighborhood, including a call for a deal that would allow for the accommodation of Phoenix, the NY Water Taxi (with their current 100+ jobs, plus more added with their expansion) and Portside New York at that location are rejected. In their last meeting with the public, convened by CM Sara Gonzalez, after being left out of being notified about a lease being signed with Phoenix, concerns about traffic problems are given lip service, but the number of trucks still coming out of Bowne Street can't be given a percentage to, by the EDC. The Governor's Island Ferry is taken out of the plan, and the conversion of Phoenix's trucks to CNG is given a 7 year time-frame, with no goals to meet within that time frame. The EDC also admits that the public access component is "not a done deal" - despite this being a clear goal set by Community Board 6 when the use whole site - Piers 7 - 11 - were being addressed. This was before the 10-year lease to ASI, which would have surely addressed the call for maritime industrial use on the site. That fact that allthese parameters were being now used for the tiny remaining area is not explained. Even the considerations of broader economic development in the neighborhood are treated with a smokescreen, referring to the "Main Street" plan, being implemented by SWBIDC, a plan that many store owners say is more trouble than it's worth. What this has to do with the EDC's plan is not really clear.

Most egregiously, concerns about port pollution and its effects on our most vulnerable populations (remember the EPA statements?) are brushed aside by representatives from the Port Authority and the EDC. There is no commitment to implement shore-power at the container terminal.

No EIS is required, we are told. It is asked whether there is a moral obligation to assess the environmental impact of the container terminal expansion. No answer is given.

5) Wednesday last week - A board meeting of the Port Authority is scheduled for Thursday. We are given 1 day's notice. Public comment is asked for and a couple of us make time to register and attend the meeting.

6) At a public "Operations Committee" meeting I request to speak, but am told the time is at the Board Meeting

7) I register to speak at the board meeting, but the Board takes its vote, inexplicably before public comment is allowed. I am called to speak after the vote. John McGettrick is not asked to speak and the board meeting is closed, despite him registering and signing in, and being told he'd be allowed to speak in person. (The board even seems surprised by this)

Does anyone smell a rat here?

Do you see that the public health is being put at risk in the name of the PA's bottom line?

Is the health of our children an important enough issue for you all to cover?

Do the words "carcinogenic" and "harmful" ring any alarm bells?

this is an issue for all of our neighborhoods - Red Hook, Carrll Gardens, Cobble Hill, etc.

Want more background? - take a look at my blog.


Adam Armstrong

Here are some email addresses for your interest -

Jake Mooney, NY Times
Gersh Kuntzman -,
Buiso, Brooklyn Papers -
Brownstoner -,
Curbed -