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!

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