Friday, December 13, 2013

Friends of The Earth: "Dangerous Levels of Deadly Soot" From Ships at Manhattan Cruise Terminal

QM2 at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal - photo: Joshua Kristal, South Brooklyn Post

In November, representatives from NABU, a German based environmental organization, visited New York to take pollution measurements at the Manhattan Cruise Terminal. NABU had been taking these tests at different cruise terminal location around the world, so these New York measurements were going to provide valuable information about the emissions from idling cruise ships berthed at our city's primary terminal.

Friends of the Earth, who have been collaborating with NABU, just released the results of these tests in a press release (here).

"At each port -- New York, Venice, Italy and Hamburg and Rostok, Germany -- samples taken by NABU with an ultrafine particle counter contained hundreds of thousands of microscopic ultrafine particles of soot per cubic centimeter of air. In New York, the sample contained 201,000 ultrafine particles of soot per cubic centimeter while the cruise ship Norwegian Gem was idling on Nov. 15, 2013."

NUBU recorded video of their particle counter taking the measurements in real time as the Norwegian Gem idled at the Manhattan terminal.

Dr. Axel Friedrich, formerly an air quality expert with the German federal environmental agency, who led the testing, is quoted in the Friends of the Earth press release:

“These extremely high measurements at the cruise ship docks are from the use of heavy fuel oil or bunker fuel and lack of pollution control technology,” 

He stated that, without pollution control technology, such as the use of particle scrubbing or the use of shore power, "cruise ship engines must operate continuously at the dock to keep the lights on, releasing huge quantities of toxic gases that harm public health."

And there's more (from the press release): 

"Leif Miller, CEO of NABU, said the World Health Organization considers soot as carcinogenic as asbestos."

“These measurements now demonstrate for the first time how much worse air pollution in ports is made by the pollution from idling cruise ships,” said Miller. As the cruise industry continued to grow rapidly, this means that every year more and more passengers and residents of port cities are exposed to deadly soot. Since the technology needed to clean up emissions is here today, this is unacceptable.”

The release of the results of this study should give those of us who have been calling for the implementation of pollution mitigation practices - such as the use of shore power -  at all of our city's ports more impetus to keep doing so. The evidence is clear. These idling ships are pouring out huge quantities of carcinogenic emissions into our city's air and into our residents' lungs, and that is totally unacceptable - especially because it's totally avoidable.

Friends of the Earth make the point that Carnival Cruise Lines, which operates all of the ships visiting the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, has installed some pollution mitigating technology on some of its ships, but Marcie Keever, oceans and vessels program director of Friends of the Earth U.S., states,

"It's unacceptable that some Carnival Corporation ships will be installing state-of-the-art air pollution controls, but not the entire fleet." She states, "It's time for Carnival to stop dragging its feet, not only on the health and safety of its passengers but of people in the ports where it calls. If Carnival cares about people and the planet, the company should install the most health-protective technology on all ships, across all of the lines it operates, to keep the air we breathe clean and healthy."

This is a great point. 

This should be a fleet-wide and port-wide practice. The same goes for the installation of shore power technology. In 2014, the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in Red Hook is scheduled to become the first port on the East Coast to offer shore power, allowing all of the visiting cruise ships to turn off their engines (that's called cold ironing), and "plug in" to the city's electricity grid while at port, totally eliminating all of those harmful substances we have been discussing and providing great health benefits to the terminal's neighbors and the residents of our city. 

These measures should be in place at all of our ports - including at container terminals - throughout our region. At the Ports of New York and New Jersey, the third largest port complex in the country, we should be implementing these life saving measures comprehensively - as is being done at the largest ports, the West Coast ports of LA and Long Beach. Just as Carnival is dragging its feet on pollution controls, so is the Port Authority of NY and NJ, which have been absolute laggards in addressing issues of port pollution. They are being left in the dust by their West Coast counterparts - and the residents of our city are being left in the soot!

Even if the Port Authority is dawdling on theses matters at our city's major container ports, the next easy step should be the one that is the clear consequence of the findings of the NABU study. 

The Manhattan Cruise Terminal - operated by the NYC Economic Development Corporation - should be the next terminal to be equipped with shore power technology, as is currently being done at its Brooklyn counterpart. The residents of Manhattan's West Side should no more be inundated by the tons of emissions and carcinogenic particles created by the visiting cruise ships - up to three at a time - idling at the edge of their residential neighborhood. Why should the vulnerable residents of that neighborhood - children, the elderly, people with respiratory illness - be subjected to these harmful substances? Especially when their fellow New Yorkers, in Red Hook, Brooklyn, who are neighbors to the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, after years voicing their objection to this practice, have secured a solution - the use of shore power for the cruise ships visiting their neighborhood's terminal.

This NABU study should convince us all - the City's "Idle-Free NYC" rule should apply to ships, too - and the cruise ships visiting the Manhattan Cruise Terminal should be the next ones to comply.


Monday, November 25, 2013

TONIGHT! Red Hook Innovations: Design Proposals and Big Thinking

Tonight, Monday November 25th, at 6:30pm at PS15, the New York Rising Planning Committee will host a forum where some "big ideas" regarding resiliency in Red Hook will be presented. As the planning committee co-chairs write -

"The evening will include a series of presentations by designers from around the city who are pushing the envelope and taking resiliency from concept to design. Presenters from the HUD Rebuild By Design Competition, Pratt's RAMP program, and Design Relief will each showcase their work focused on Red Hook."

Both BIG and HR&A, who developed plans for the Rebuild By Design competition, will present their ideas for Red Hook. You can view their plans and others at the Rebuild By Design site (HERE). A flyer with all the details is at the bottom of this post.

Long-Term Perspective – Harbor District: Red Hook - BIG TEAM

Long-Term Perspective – Harbor District: Red Hook - BIG TEAM

Red Hook Innovations: Design Proposals and Big Thinking

Monday, November 25th

PS15 Auditorium (71 Sullivan Street)

6:30 pm to 8 pm



Saturday, November 16, 2013

Second Red Hook-Wide Public Meeting for NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program - 7pm, Nov. 19th, 2013 - ALL WELCOME!

Help Red Hook Strategize for the Future!

The NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program is holding its second Red Hook neighborhood wide meeting on Tuesday November 19th at 7:00, at the PAL Miccio Center (110 W 9th St, Brooklyn, NY 11231) to help shape the future of resiliency in Red Hook.

Please visit this website for more information about the program, project and up to date process -

Over the past several months, this program's committee has taken our community's input and, with the help of our Planning Advisors, has identified and documented the many Needs and Opportunities pertaining to our waterfront community. You can see the final document published here - 

There is the opportunity to provide additional input on this interactive map - - where you can add your detailed ideas on the shape of Red Hook's future.

The next step is to create a set of Strategies, linked to our Needs and Opportunities. These Strategies will lead to specific projects to help us reach our resilient community goals. Identifying these Strategies is critical to laying the foundation.

We need your voice and input.

The event on November 19th will be a series of round table discussions so we can talk, neighbor to neighbor about our visions, ideas, and consider our neighborhood's future reconstruction.

Please come along!

Second public meeting on November 19th from 7:00 – 8:30pm at the PAL Miccio - 110 W 9th St, Brooklyn, NY 11231

Join the conversation using #NYRising


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Red Hook Residents Write A Letter To Congress: Pre-Sandy Changes In Flood Insurance Rules Will Be More Ruinous Than The Storm Itself. UPDATED 10/26: Bloomberg PRESS RELEASE; Rep. Maloney: Sunday Press Conference; New York Times Article, UPDATED 10/27: Velazquez Joins Maloney: PRESS RELEASE (SEE BELOW)

 Pioneer Street - courtesy of the SSAIL Facebook Page.

Red Hook residents are extremely concerned about the affordability of flood insurance for their homes. Anyone who attended the public meeting last week for the NY Rising Community Reconstruction Plan heard that concern stated over and over again, with many attendees saying it was one of the most important issues for Red Hook home-owners who are worried about the future affordability and viability of living in Red Hook.

As we know, after the destruction and upheaval that Superstorm Sandy caused, Red Hook residents struggled with getting fair compensation from their flood insurance companies for the damages they suffered. Some home-owners, nearly 12 months after the storm, are still waiting for satisfaction and are caught in a long-term legal fight to get that much needed (and deserved) payout.

Now, adding insult to injury, changes that were made to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) by Congress via the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012 (pre-Sandy) are making the renewal or purchase of flood insurance much more expensive - by a factor 60 in some cases (quotes of $36,000/year) - regardless of any reasonable measures that the home-owner might have made to protect or reduce potential damage to their homes from future flooding (raising mechanicals to upper floors, elevating electric meters, etc.).  These coming increases will restrict the community's ability to insure their properties; force residents out of their homes; drive down property values and affordability; and will have flow-on effects that may prove even more harmful to Red Hook's residential and commercial community than the storm itself. The fact is, if these increased costs do become insurmountable, this would have an enormous impact on the resilience and successful post-Sandy recovery of the neighborhood, which so many of us are working towards. It would be a disaster.

This is what Red Hook residents are so worried about.

To raise awareness of this issue, Red Hook home-owners have banded together to start a group called "Sandy Survivors for Affordable Insurance Legislation - SSAIL" (Facebook page here which has links to many stories on this subject). Additionally, a letter has been composed by residents of Pioneer Street (full disclosure: my street), in which they detail the terrible impact that the Biggert-Waters Act will have on the people living on this particular Red Hook street - impacts that will similarly be borne throughout the neighborhood.

I could outline the many arguments that are being made for rolling back this destructive law, but it's probably best if the reader takes a look at the points these Pioneer Street residents have compiled in the letter. It's pretty compelling.

The letter will be presented to the House Financial Services Committee by an organization called Coalition for Sustainable Flood Insurance (CSI), which is representing many communities around the country that are being impacted negatively by the changes made by the Biggert-Waters Act.

Here is the letter - (PDF available here)

The historic Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook, in New York City is home to many working and middle‐class families who have lived here for generations, as well as artists and small businesses which have contributed to the recent revitalization of this diverse waterfront community. Pioneer Street is one of the few preserved blocks in the neighborhood, comprised of nearly forty late 19th century brick row houses. These small, three‐story buildings, each between only 1500 and 1800 square feet, are mostly primary residences. Many also include a rental unit on one floor, and this income helps keep the neighborhood affordable by reducing the expenses of home‐ownership in New York City. In turn, this affordability helps keep property values in the neighborhood stable.

Pioneer street itself is approximately seven and a half feet above sea level, and even though it is located well inside New York Harbor, and not subject to any wave action or moving water, the flooding that resulted from Super Storm Sandy did inundate the lowest, “garden-­‐level” floors of all of our homes, which are a few steps down from the street. This was the first flooding of this kind in well over 100 years, if ever. The damage from this stillwater flooding was significant, but not crippling. Mostly, it was mechanical equipment, electrical service, insulation and finishes that needed repair. Only a few homes had any structural damages, and this was typically minor. Almost all of these homes were fully repaired within six months, and most homeowners were able to continue to live in their homes during the repairs. Although the storm was devastating, its effects were relatively short-­‐lived.

This will not be the case with the Biggert‐Waters Flood Reform Act, which threatens long­‐term and irreversible damage to our homes, our neighborhood, and our community. This so‐called reform act, which was passed months before Sandy, calls for dramatic and unprecedented increases in flood insurance premiums for policies administered through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). These premiums will be set primarily according to the elevation of a home relative to a base flood elevation, which is approximately twelve feet above sea level on Pioneer Street, regardless of when the homes were actually constructed. This is a departure from the previous regulation, which did distinguish between pre‐existing houses and new developments. As a result, Red Hook homeowners may see premiums rise as much as sixty times their current rates, from as little as $1,600 per year to as much as $36,000. According to FEMA, the only way to afford these crippling rates would be to literally raise our homes by as much as 8 feet.

The 19th Century, joisted­‐masonry construction of our houses makes them impossible to elevate. In order to avoid these new premiums, our only option would be to tear down our entire block – forty Civil War Era houses – and rebuild from scratch, which is not financially feasible for any of us because like most Americans, most of our net worth is in our homes, and subject to mortgages which we work very hard to pay off.

Our intimate knowledge with the flooding caused by Sandy, and our associated experience filing flood insurance claims through the NFIP, uniquely qualifies us to evaluate the proposed changes to this program. To be blunt, we are confused as to how the new, unsubsidized premiums can be justified as "actuarial". These yearly premiums represent, on average, somewhere between 33% and 200% of the actual settlements paid out by the NFIP to Red Hook policy‐holders following Sandy. This for an event with a probability of occurrence of 1/100, according to FEMA’s own flood maps (in truth, Sandy is likely the worst flood in 500 years of recorded NYC history, arguably making it less likely). Even if we were to assume that the frequency of these events will increase twofold over the next fifty years, and factor in generous allowances for overhead and administration, the numbers don't come close to adding up. In fact, the premiums would be unjustifiable even if these policies had paid out 100% of their value ($250k) following Sandy, which they did not.
No rational homeowner would participate in this program at these rates, since it would be vastly cheaper to self‐insure. This will deplete the insurance pool, leading to more deficits for the NFIP. In addition, those of us who are required by their mortgagees to carry such insurance will be caught between a rock and hard place; unable to afford their homes as result of these crippling flood insurance premiums, yet also underwater on their mortgages and unable to sell and relocate because of the effect mandatory insurance at unjustifiable prices will have on property values.

Fortunately, there are many alternatives to Biggert‐Waters’ “reforms” which can improve the solvency of the NFIP without victimizing homeowners. A team of New York City experts under the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency (SIRR) proposed several such alternatives. For example, offering homeowners the option of lower cost, high deductible policies would help mitigate some of the severe affordability issues that Biggert‐Waters threatens, would continue to protect homeowners from catastrophic loss, and would ease future demands on the NFIP by reducing smaller, non‐catastrophic repetitive claims. Similarly, the NFIP could offer credits – substantial enough to serve as an effective incentive – against insurance premiums for proven flood design improvements, such as elevating sensitive equipment and electrical service, avoiding the use of permeable construction materials like BATT insulation or drywall, and employing flood vents to equalize hydrostatic pressure across structural walls in the event of severe flooding to prevent serious structural damage. These design improvements alone would have reduced the Sandy flood damage experienced in Red Hook by upwards of 66% for most properties.

Biggert‐Waters tries to balance the flawed design of the NFIP on the backs of innocent, hardworking homeowners in neighborhoods such as ours. This is an outrage, especially because so many good alternatives exist. Biggert‐Waters needs immediate and dramatic reform along with an affordability study that accurately reflects the repercussions the removal of these subsidies will have on average working class Americans. We implore you to get to work.

UPDATE 10/27


Red Hook's Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (NY-7) joined Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (NY-12), New York City property owners, co-op residents, insurance experts, small-business owners and community advocates today outside 200 East End Avenue, an Upper East Side co-op building that, after recouping from $4 million of damage after Hurricane Sandy, could be hit with sky-high flood insurance premiums through the National Flood Insurance Program, as a result of the the Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012. Other attendees from around New York City are also facing the reality of soaring flood insurance premiums that are unaffordable and could prevent people from purchasing insurance. Congresswoman Maloney called for a delay in the rate increases, many of which took effect on Oct. 1, and could raise New Yorker’s premiums by $5,000-$10,000, according to a recent City report.

“The flood insurance program should not harm New Yorkers with unreasonable rate increases. We must work together to find a solution that protects New Yorkers in high-risk flood areas,” said Congresswoman Velázquez.

Read the entire press release HERE

Photo Caption: Congresswoman Maloney (NY-12) (center), is joined by Congresswoman Velazquez (NY-7), homeowners, advocates and community members from Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens to call on Congress to delay drastic increases in premiums for flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program.

UPDATES 10/26:


"The Number of Families Required to Pay for Federal Flood Insurance will Double When New FEMA Maps are Complete; Congress and FEMA Must Ensure that Coverage Is Not Cost Prohibitive"

“For thousands of New Yorkers, the difference in the cost of insurance as a result of Federal policy changes is the difference between being able to stay in their neighborhoods and having to move,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “We will continue to lobby the Federal government to implement solutions to help New York City residents mitigate the significant rise in their flood insurance costs and help New Yorkers damaged by Hurricane Sandy to recover and rebuild.”

Press release here

Click here for study.



~Rep. Maloney, residents, small-business owners, members of insurance industry call for delay in drastic premium hikes for federal flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program~

New York, NY – Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (NY-12) will be joined by New York City residents, members of the insurance industry, community advocates and small-business owners on Sunday, Oct. 27, 12 noon, in front of 200 East End Avenue, between 89th and 90th Streets, in Manhattan, to highlight the fact that many property owners are facing drastically high increases in their federal flood insurance premiums, as a result of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act. 200 East End Avenue is a Co-Op building that suffered millions of dollars of damage in Hurricane Sandy. But, as a result of Biggert-Waters, it could see an unaffordable increase in premium rates for flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

Press Contact – Nick Moroni (212) 860-0606, (646) 831-1649

NY TIMES ARTICLE: Insurance for Floods May Force Relocations - HERE

"The number of properties in New York City that will be required to have federal flood insurance will nearly double in 2015, and the accompanying higher premiums may mean that many city residents will have to relocate, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said on Friday."

“We’ve got to figure some ways to solve the problem,” Mr. Bloomberg said during his weekly radio program on Friday. “An awful lot of people just don’t have the money. It’s the old blood from a stone problem.”


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Tues Oct. 15th. 7pm: Red Hook-Wide Meeting for the New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program. ALL WELCOME!!

Dear Red Hook friends and neighbors - 

I am a member of the NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program  Community Committee (website here) and we are holding a Red Hook wide meeting for the New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program on October 15th at 7:00pm, at PS 15 (71 Sullivan Street) to help shape the future of resiliency in Red Hook and I hope you will join me.

 We have worked together closely to rebuild since Superstorm Sandy. But as you know, we have more to do. To help, Governor Cuomo has created the NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program to assist communities like ours to rebuild and become more resilient through community-driven plans. NY Rising is designed to empower localities severely damaged by Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene, or Tropical Storm Lee to develop comprehensive and innovative recovery plans. Over the course of eight months each community will develop a comprehensive recovery program that increases resilience and economic development, and positions the community to use implementation funds most effectively.

Red Hook has been selected as a community to work with the NY Rising program. In September, I began working as part of a Planning Committee to drive the identification of needs, opportunities, projects and actions that are important to Red Hook. But we need your voice and your suggestions.

Please join fellow Red Hook residents, businesses and organizations to participate in our first public information meeting on October 15th. You will get a chance to learn more about the program, and we’ll get a chance to hear directly from you about the needs and opportunities you see here for recovery in the short and long-term. This is the beginning of the planning effort and there will be more opportunities to participate going forward. But your involvement at the first meeting will ensure we’re on the right path. Thank you for sharing this, and the information at the links below, with your friends and neighbors; the more people who come out to participate, the stronger our plan will be. And please don’t hesitate to ask me if you have any questions about NY Rising.

I hope you’ll join us.

For a general overview of the program, click HERE

Friday, May 10, 2013

NYC Welcomes "Norwegian Breakaway" - West Side Residents Welcome More Unmitigated Pollution! (UPDATED: West Coast Stories)

Photo from NYCEDC blog.

This week, New York added a new cruise ship to the list of vessels calling our city's ports home. That ship is the "Norwegian Breakaway", which is the largest cruise ship to homeport in Manhattan. (The largest cruise ship that homeports in NYC - the Queen Mary 2 - berths at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in Red Hook). Mayor Bloomberg, New York Cruise and the New York City Economic Development Corporation were all abuzz about the arrival of this ship and its imminent "christening".

The NYCEDC blog described the event this way:

This week, NYCEDC and Mayor Bloomberg joined Norwegian Cruise Line and the Rockettes to christen the Norwegian Breakaway, the largest cruise ship ever to port in NYC! The enormous 4,000-passenger vessel with Peter Max’s signature artwork on its hull was a sight to behold at the Manhattan Cruise Terminal at Pier 88.
“The arrival of the Norwegian Breakaway—the largest cruise ship to homeport in Manhattan—is another proof point of the growth and success of New York City’s $200 million cruise sector, a cornerstone of the City’s $55 billion tourism industry,” said Mayor Bloomberg.

The City and NYCEDC are always talking about the economic benefits of the cruise industry, but never talk about the economic and environmental impact of this industry - due to pollution, health impacts, and other factors. (Not to mention the fact that the cruise industry has a pretty poor record regarding labor law and in paying taxes. For example, over the past 5 years, Carnival paid only 1.1% in tax).

The lack of acknowledgement of this impact, particularly regarding the health impacts that the emissions of these visiting ships is having on our city's residents, prompted me to write this comment on the NYCEDC blog website:

Are your readers aware that these huge ships - like all ocean-going ships that visit the ports of New York (cruise, container and cargo) - are constantly idling while in port? While they berth at our city's terminals, often next to our most dense residential neighborhoods, they are continuously running their dirty diesel engines to supply the ship's electrical needs.
 The emissions that these ships' engines create while in port - equivalent to up to 30,000 cars - are high in sulfur and soot and the EPA regards them to be carcinogenic and asthma inducing, among their various well-documented negative health impacts. These impacts, says the EPA, are most acutely shouldered by our most vulnerable - our children, people with respiratory ailments (like asthma), the elderly and low income or minority communities.

As toxic as they are, there is a way to stop these harmful substances being emitted while the ships are in port. That is to "plug-in" the ships to the city's electric grid - using what is called "shore power" - thereby allowing the ships to turn off their dirty diesel engines while in port (this is a practice called "cold ironing"). Despite the fact that this practice has been used widely in many places - like on the West Coast (Ports of LA, Long Beach, etc.) - and has been used by the US Navy for over 50 years, East Coast ports have not one single port with "shore power" in use. (Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in New York is supposed to be the first on the East Coast to do so in 2014 - after a long fought effort by the community to make it happen - but no infrastructure has yet been built, and until it is up and running, no one is counting that chicken).

The Ports of NY and NJ make up the third largest port complex in the nation - behind the West Coast ports I mentioned. Compared to the actions taken by the mayors, etc. of those West Coast cities, why hasn't the administration of this city taken the emissions of these ships seriously, especially when there is a way to actually eliminate those emissions - one that is tried and proven in those other port cities?

Yes, the cruise industry and shipping industry is having a positive impact on our city's economy, but without these pollution mitigating technologies, there is a tremendous price being paid - often unknowingly - by our port-side residents. Are the residents of the West Side of Manhattan even aware that these huge ships - sometimes 3 at a time - are all idling while berthed at the edge of their neighborhood, spewing fumes over their heads and into their children's lungs? Why don't they know? Isn't it the City's obligation to educate these residents about the poisons that are being injected by these ships into their air?

The fact is, the City never acknowledges the burden that is being shouldered by our city's residents in negative health impacts due to the emissions of ships and other port activities.

The City and NYCEDC are constantly touting the economic benefits of our cruise industry, but never a mention of any of the negative impacts - on our health and environment. For an administration that prides itself on its "green" credentials, that is shameful. History will not look kindly on the inaction of Mayor Bloomberg, the NYCEDC and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in tackling the impact of port emissions over the last 10 years.

There's still time to do something, but the record - as of now - is a pretty sorry one.


In case you wondered what was happening on the West Coast, check out these articles -

Ship and Bunker: "Millions of Dollars Being Spent on Shore Side Power"

Maritime Executive: "Long Beach: Port, Terminals, Ships Investing in Shore Power"

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Friends of the Earth's "Annual Report 2012 : The Faces of Change" Highlights Our Efforts to Eliminate Cruise Ship Pollution in Red Hook

Friends of the Earth just published their Annual Report for 2012 (from this page you can download the whole report as a PDF). This year they are calling their report "The Faces of Change" and in it you will, in their words, "read the stories of everyday individuals who are fighting heroically to protect the environment from the abuses of corporations seeking to maximize profit while ignoring environmental impacts, or standing up to government agencies and policies that fail to protect the environment, or working to rebuild after extreme weather disasters like Superstorm Sandy."

In this year's report, Friends of the Earth decided to focus on seven individuals, and I am honored to say that they chose to include me, this blog, our community and the efforts we have all made, over many years, to eliminate cruise ship pollution in Red Hook.

The piece on Red Hook highlights the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal "shore power" plan, which will allow the idling cruise ships to turn off their dirty-diesel engines while in port and plug into the city's electricity grid, thereby eliminating tons of dangerous emissions - NOx, SOx, PM (soot), CO2 - which currently spew over our neighborhood (and beyond) and into our residents' lungs. NOTE: Although the shore power plan was approved nearly 2 years ago, as this South Brooklyn Post article reminds us, it has yet to come "on-line". The most recent statements from the City state that the plan will be up and running in 2014. Meanwhile, these carcinogenic and asthma inducing substances still continue to pump out of the idling cruise ships (and container ships too - but that's another story) that berth at our residential neighborhood's waterfront.

Please find below excerpts from the Friends of the Earth "Annual Report 2012: Faces of Change" (click on the images to enlarge)

I am certainly grateful to Friends of the Earth for highlighting our local story and this important issue. I would like to thank John Kaltenstein who works on these issues for Friends of the Earth and advocates for better maritime environmental standards at the IMO (International Maritime Organization) and elsewhere. He contacted me many years ago when he saw that I was trying to raise awareness of the dangers of port pollution in Red Hook and throughout the ports of New York and New Jersey - from the emissions of ships, trucks and other sources - and he encouraged me to keep getting out the word, sharing information, and himself sharing information with me and drawing attention to the issue in articles like this in Sustainable Shipping - "The Big Apple's Big Shipping Pollution Problem". John made the suggestion to his colleague, Lisa Stone, who is the publications manager at FOE, to include our story in this year's report. FOE has played a tremendous role in raising awareness of the dangers of ship emissions, whether from cruise ships, container ships, or other large oceangoing vessels. They have worked on establishing better emissions standards for ships, through the use of lower sulfur fuels and the establishment of "Emissions Control Areas", as is being implemented in the coastal waters of North America, and have pressed for the use of shore power. They have highlighted the environmental impacts of the cruise industry, and every year release a "Cruise Report Card" which allows potential vacationers to assess and compare a cruise ship or cruise line's "environmental and human health impacts". (FYI - The Queen Mary 2 gets an "F" for "air pollution reduction"). Their work on these matters has been exemplary.

Our inclusion in the Annual Report is heartening recognition of the effort that our community has made on these important issues. But it's still important to recognize that we've still got a long way to go - in Red Hook, our city, and around the country.

As I stated, the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal "shore power" plan still isn't up and running. I haven't heard that there has been any negative impact on that plan resulting from the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy - whether it be delays or otherwise - but the NYCEDC and Port Authority haven't been the most communicative entities in the City, so we'll just have to hope everything is going according to plan.

Also, this shouldn't be the end of the establishment of shore power at our city's ports, it should be the beginning. There should be a plan to use this technology throughout our ports  - the third largest in the country - at cruise ship terminals (hello West Side!) and container terminals, as is being done on the West Coast and elsewhere. Mayor Bloomberg has not been very outspoken on these issues, and though the acknowledgment of "port pollution" made it into the City's "Vision 2020 - Comprehensive Waterfront Plan" (barely, because initial drafts of the plan made no mention of the pollution impacts of ships, ports, etc. - nor ways to mitigate that pollution!), the issue gets no exposure through the Mayor's office, nor - to its great shame - through the press. Perhaps a new Mayor will be more "out front" on port pollution issues, as any mayor of a great port city should be, but we'll have to see about that.

It's clear that these issues are also gaining awareness around the country and world. I constantly see stories (though rarely in our local press) about the impacts of port pollution, the health and environmental burden that portside communities are bearing for the "economic benefit" of cruise terminals, container ports, and other stories about these issues. Look at the current debate in Savannah, Georgia where they are considering building a cruise terminal and note the impact that a similar cruise terminal in Charleston, S.C. has had on its community - "A Savannah Cruise Port: Host Cities Pay the Price". Referring to the "bunker fuel" that large ocean-going ships burn while at sea and while idling in port, the Savannah Morning News article states:

“Bunker fuel is so dirty that even the cleaner bunker fuel is hundreds of times dirtier than on-road diesel fuel,” Keever said, referring to the fact that the current fuel is 650 times dirtier than truck diesel fuel. 
Cruise ships run their engines while in port to power the cabins for passengers and crew.
For a 2,500-passenger ship with a crew of 1,000, the sulfur dioxide emissions for a 10-hour stay equal that of more than 34,000 diesel trucks idling for the same amount of time, based on calculations vetted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Then there is the story from Maritime Professional about Hong Kong - "Ship Emissions an Afterthought at Hong Kong Cruise Terminal".

This is a very familiar story to the residents of Red Hook.

There is much being done to try to fight for measures to reduce this pollution and its terrible health impacts - whether locally or globally - on our port-side communities, often borne by the most vulnerable. Friends of the Earth have been at the forefront of that fight.

I so appreciate Friends of the Earth raising the awareness of Red Hook's part of the story, and I am honored to be included in their Annual Report 2012 as someone who has played a role in that story - as a "Face of Change".