Monday, October 1, 2012

Atlantic Basin News: NYCEDC Wants MORE Trucks at Pier 11. Beaks Promise to Red Hook on Public / Cultural Use in Portion of Pier's Shed. UPDATE: Star Review Confirms Phoenix Move

The New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) has just put out an RFP (Request for Proposals) for an operator for 100% of the Pier 11 shed, a structure that lies along the Eastern edge of the Atlantic Basin on the Red Hook waterfront (on the left of the photo, above). A portion of this shed and surrounding site, including 600 feet of Atlantic Basin water frontage, was supposed to be the home of PortSide NewYork and their ship, the Mary A. Whalen, which they use for their cultural, educational and community outreach programs. PortSide is now looking for a new home as they have been kicked out of the Atlantic Basin and the EDC's promise to allow them to make a permanent home at this site has been withdrawn. The EDC, through the new RFP, is asking for a respondent (developer) to sub-lease the site to operate and develop "cargo industrial warehousing and distribution operations".

You can see and download the RFP here.

The creation of this RFP must mean that Phoenix Beverages, the beer trucking company that currently uses the Pier 11 shed for recycling and garbage, will be moving out of that site and consolidating their entire operations at Pier 7, at the bottom of Atlantic Avenue. This is where most of their activities already take place.

UPDATE (10/10/12): The Red Hook Star Review (story HERE) confirms that Phoenix Beverages will consolidate their operations at Pier 7. The Star Review story, however, makes no mention of PortSide's inauspicious removal from the plans for the Pier 11 shed and Atlantic Basin, nor the fact that the EDC's new RFP excludes ANY community use, public space, waterfront access at the site, as was promised.

It would seem like an obvious and logical move to accommodate Phoenix at a single location - in fact, many of us have been advocating for this for a while. The main reason Phoenix (a.k.a. Long Feng Trucking) trucks have been a problem for our neighborhoods is because of the EDC's insistence, when the final and contentious deal was done in 2009, that Phoenix split their operations between Pier 7 (bottom of Atlantic Ave) and Pier 11(bottom of Pioneer Street), which meant that their trucks had to shuttle through local streets between the two locations, noisily rattling and racing through Red Hook and Columbia Street's residential neighborhoods, imperiling pedestrians along the way. This problem was "solved" when community uproar about broken promises (my post here), which were made to keep the trucks on "internal roads" within the container terminal, forced politicians to step in and, with the co-operation of the Teamsters, the Phoenix truck drivers were directed to use the BQE to get from one end of the neighborhood to the other. If the comments on this blog are anything to go by, trucks re-routing along the often congested BQE regularly costs the drivers up to 30 additional minutes (without overtime pay) at the end of their work day - something I bet they'll be happy to be rid of, when (or if) this consolidation at Pier 7 does take place.

But that doesn't mean we'll have fewer trucks coming in and out of the Pier 11/ Atlantic Basin location.

Unfortunately, the RFP - calling for 100% of the shed to be used for "cargo industrial warehousing and distribution operations" - will mean MORE trucks for this site. If what we suspect is happening, Phoenix's 200+ truck trips a day will come in and out of their Pier 7 location (Atlantic Ave), and the operations of the new "developer" at Pier 11 will bring additional truck trips in and out of the Red Hook location (as of yet unknown in weight, size, number and type), entering and exiting on Bowne Street, feeding out into our neighborhoods and onto our streets.

That doesn't sound like what we were promised back in 2009.

You see, one of the assurances made to our community when the deal was done to move Phoenix to the Red Hook waterfront - and, inexplicably into BOTH Piers 7 and 11 (when they only ever wanted one pier) - was that, when Phoenix moved in to Pier 11, a portion of the shed and the surrounding site around the Atlantic Basin would be allocated for community, cultural use, public and open space, accommodation of the Brooklyn Greenway, waterfront access, transportation, etc.

It must be remembered that previous EDC plans, Community Board 6 guidelines for the development of Piers 7-12, and Red Hook's own 197a Plan, have all called for industrial maritime use to be maintained on the waterfront, but also called for the creation of community-friendly elements - we're talking open space, public access to the water, cultural and educational uses, and better waterborne public transportation. In 2007, when the Red Hook Container Terminal secured its lease to remain on the Red Hook waterfront, that lease fulfilled the requirement for significant maritime-industrial use of the piers. The Container Terminal retained Piers 7, 8, 9, 9a and 10. After that lease was signed, the only remaining parcel of property that could possibly be used to fulfill the other needs -  those for the community-friendly elements - was the Atlantic Basin and the Pier 11 shed. That was all that was left!

That's why, in 2009 when we found out that the EDC wanted to also "take over" the Pier 11 shed (and the Atlantic Basin) by leasing it to Phoenix Beverages, the community was in full revolt.

In an attempt to placate community concerns about the Phoenix plan - including questions about congestion, pollution, appropriate use of precious, publicly-owned waterfront land, etc. - the local non-profit organization, PortSide New York, was tapped by the EDC to take on the task of making the "community-friendly elements" a reality, using part of the shed and a 600 foot length of the Atlantic Basin. At the time I wrote it was a "small concession", but at least it was something! Representatives from the EDC, including Vice Presidents Venetia Lannon and Andrew Genn, assured us at meeting after meeting that PortSide was an integral part of the whole deal, and we were told we shouldn't worry about being shut out or cut off from the waterfront to which our community - both residential and commercial - was craving more connection.

That's what we were promised.

Well, that promise was broken. Initially, things seemed to be heading in the right direction. Since 2009, PortSide has been given the opportunity to create a few very successful events in the Atlantic Basin using temporary, short-term permits. There were "Tanker Concerts" (pic below) in collaboration with with local venue, "Jalopy", the Dutch Flat Bottomed Boats event (pic above), community sailing trips with tall ship, Clipper City, and more. But, earlier this year, PortSide were inauspiciously kicked out, ridiculed by the Port Authority as being like a "gypsy" camping out at "Terminal 2 at JFK" ... and now, they are looking for a new home - possibly, at great loss to our community, outside of Brooklyn.

To add insult to injury, we see now that the EDC is not even looking for a replacement for PortSide. They want to take over the whole site for warehousing and industrial use. There is no mention of the community-friendly elements - not even accommodation of the long and carefully planned Brooklyn Greenway! Why are they ignoring the clearly articulated needs of our community? This goes against all of the rhetoric previously coming out of government and the community itself.

Time after time - in Red Hook's 197a Plan, to the 2003 and 2006 Community Board 6 Guidelines for the development of Piers 7-12, in statements from local representatives, Red Hook Civic Association, the EDC and even the Port Authority themselves - the consensus has been that our mixed use neighborhood needed more access to the waterfront, more public space, waterborne transportation, connection of local businesses to the waterfront - what everyone called a "balanced" use of the waterfront.

Even recent studies, including efforts supported by the City, have called for more "balanced use of the waterfront".

The Vision 2020 NYC Comprehensive Waterfront Plan, which was hashed out in 2010, stated that the area around the Atlantic Basin and the adjacent cruise terminal should be assessed for further "public use", "active water related public use", "proper alignment of Brooklyn Greenway", "recreational and educational programming" (my post here).

If the EDC is looking for someone to develop 100% of the Pier 11 shed for industrial use and warehousing, doesn't that torpedo any possibility of realizing these community-friendly elements?

Can someone tell me, what was the point of that whole Vision 2020 thing?!!

Just to list a few of the broken promises made by the EDC about uses for this site:

*Phoenix trucks will use internal roadways
*Inclusion of Governors Island Ferry
*More public waterborne transportation - East River Ferry, perhaps?
*Enable creation of new home for PortSide NewYork
*Berth and 600 foot water frontage for Mary A. Whalen and other commercial boats on Atlantic Basin
*Open space
*Recreational / educational uses
*Increased public access
*Community use for Cruse Terminal / Parking lot
*Accommodation of Brooklyn Greenway
*Creation of view-ways
*Connection to Van Brunt Street commercial strip

..... and the list goes on!

Yet again, the EDC is letting our community down. Depriving us of meaningful access to our publicly owned waterfront. Making bad decisions that impact our community with trucks and pollution - I haven't even mentioned the EDC's role in bringing unmitigated, polluting cruise ships to our residential neighborhood, spreading asthma-inducing emissions over our kids' heads and into their lungs (an evil notorious enough to have a cameo in Spike Lee's new movie, "Red Hook Summer"), and the EDC's role in sending relentlessly noisy helicopters into our air space.

I really don't know what the EDC is thinking - but shouldn't we let them know a few of our thoughts?

Maybe people would like to attend one of these site visits:

Should NYCEDC elect to keep the RFP open for additional Submission Dates, additional information sessions/site visits will be held at 10AM on the following days:

Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Those who wish to attend should RSVP by email to 

From the EDC's RFP - click to enlarge