Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Rep. Jerrold Nadler and Mayor Bloomberg re-commit to Sunset Park Container Terminal

In my one of my previous posts, commenting on the challenges regarding the long-term viability - both environmentally and practically - of the Red Hook Container Port, I referred to the proposal to develop a Container Port at Sunset Park - something that was part of the City's 1999 "Strategic Plan for the Redevelopment of the Port of New York". This part of the plan had seemed to have fallen of the agenda for the last number of years, but a recent announcement from the City has put the proposed Sunset Park terminal back in the spotlight.

Regarding the announcement, Rep. Jerrold Nadler made this comment -

“This blueprint will reaffirm the City’s commitment to preserving, protecting and investing in our precious maritime and industrial infrastructure, and will build upon the Mayor’s support of the development of a major container port in Sunset Park"

Nadler is referring to the City's newly announce Waterfront Vision and Enhancement Strategy (WAVES).

From the City's press release (here) -

"The WAVES strategy – to be developed over the next nine months – will include two core components: the Vision 2020 – The New York City Comprehensive Waterfront Plan that will establish long-term goals for the next decade and beyond, and the New York City Waterfront Action Agenda that will set forth priority initiatives to be implemented within three years. Together, the initiatives will provide a blueprint for the City’s waterfront and waterways, and focus on the following categories: open space and recreation, the working waterfront, housing and economic development, natural habitats, climate change adaptation and waterborne transportation."

I wrote about the "Vision 2020" thing in a previous post (here) where I mentioned the opportunity to attend meetings, comment on-line and to have a say in the direction of the plan.

The interesting this about the latest announcement was the serious re-committal to the Sunset Park Container Port from the Mayor, Speaker Quinn and Rep. Nadler.

Jerry Nadler has long been a supporter of a container port at Sunset Park, saying that this location's larger size and proximity to the proposed "cross harbor freight rail tunnel", of which he is the strongest advocate, gave it a logical advantage.

Nadler went on, as quoted in this Brooklyn Eagle story (here) about the merits of the proposal -

"Our roads cannot handle the truck traffic that exists today, let alone the projected increases of the coming years. For that reason, the trucking of freight is not now and has never been a sustainable or long-term solution.”

Nadler seems to be saying here that the transportation of freight should, whenever possible, be done by rail, thereby alleviating the toll taken on the environment, roads and buildings by heavy truck traffic.

This damage is something that Red Hook knows a bit about as we suffer from not only the harmful emissions from the ships at the container and cruise terminals, but the pollution, congestion and structural damage done to our buildings by trucks - with more to come with the imminent relocation of Phoenix Beverages to Pier 11 and 7, bringing 200 more truck trips a day to our neighborhood's streets. Red Hook's terminal has no rail connection, so is totally reliant on trucks to move its freight - something that Nadler says is neither "sustainable" nor a "long-term solution".

What this re-commitment to the Container Terminal at Sunset Park means for the Red Hook terminal is unclear. When the City had plans to shut down the Red Hook terminal in 2006, one of the main objections, made by Nadler, Quinn and others, was that Brooklyn needed a container terminal, and until the alternately proposed Sunset Park terminal was up and running, the inefficient and under-productive operation at Red Hook should be maintained.

However, Nadler and the City, in the recent press release, talk of the "protection" of the maritime and industrial infrastructure. Phoenix Beverages, who NYCEDC President, Seth Pinsky, referred to as the "new anchor tenant for the Red Hook Container Terminal" has a 20-year lease on the Red Hook Piers giving the Container Terminal operators, American Stevedoring (ASI), by proxy, control of a majority of Pier 11 for that time (though ASI only has a 10-year lease of the piers - supposedly). So whether that means that the Red Hook terminal would continue operating despite a Sunset Park terminal coming on line - whenever that might be - is hard to say.

What is clear is that there is some serious thinking going on about the long-term plans for the city's waterfront - that can be seen in the City's WAVES Strategy.

If that means that we're thinking of smarter, cleaner and more balanced ways to use the waterfront then I'm all for it.

If it means that the City is serious about hearing from the residents about what they want and need from their waterfront, then I say "great" and encourage you to make your voices heard at meetings (schedule here) or by making comments on-line (here).

If it means there's a push to create a cleaner Port of New York, with less reliance on trucks and more on rail with new rail links, the building of shore power infrastructure and the promotion of no-idling "cold ironing" for the ships - wherever they dock - then, to paraphrase Dennis Holt, from the Brooklyn Eagle ...

Bring it on.


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