Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Shore Power is Finally Operational and In Use at Brooklyn Cruise Terminal (UPDATE: Maybe Not! See Jan. 2018 Post)

The photo from first blog post in April 2009.
My two kids are on bikes, second from left and second from right.
They are now 13 and 19.
You might have read articles in the local media and elsewhere regarding the press release (here) from the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) stating that 'shore power' is finally operational and in use at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. As readers of this blog know, shore power is a technology that lets ships "plug in" to the electricity grid while in port, allowing them to turn off their dirty diesel engines (this is called 'cold ironing'), rather than idling 24/7, as they have been. This is the first shore power berth on the entire U.S. East Coast.

Thanks to those of you who have sent me messages of congratulations for my part in raising awareness and advocating for this technology. I've been working for this result for over a decade since the Cruise Terminal opened at the bottom of our residential street in Red Hook. In April, 2009 - in an effort to further advocate for shore power and raise awareness of port and shipping pollution related issues in Red Hook, NYC and beyond - I started this blog, "A View From The Hook". In 2012, Friends of the Earth named me as one of their "Faces of Change" for these efforts. I was one of 7 individuals or organizations recognized that year for their environmental activism.

So this is a great achievement, right? Unfortunately, despite the press release stating that the use of this technology will “eliminate 1,500 tons of carbon dioxide, 95 tons of nitrous oxide, and 6.5 tons of particulate matter annually" (and that the) "health benefits associated with improved air quality will generate approximately $99 million in cumulative savings over 15 years”, there is no event planned to celebrate shore power coming on line in Red Hook,

I guess the Port Authority and the NYCEDC don't want to make too big a deal of this technology and its health and environmental benefits, because if more residents knew, they would be demanding (as I have here and elsewhere) that shore power be used throughout our city and region's ports, for all types of large oceangoing ships - cruise and container ships too, which also idle in port, burning dirty diesel, emitting dangerous and climate change-inducing emissions. The truth is that ports on the West Coast - including the two largest in the U.S., the Ports of Long Beach and L.A. - have been building shore power infrastructure for a decade for cruise and container ships, as well as implementing other port pollution reduction measures, such as clean truck programs. In comparison, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have been laggards when it comes to reducing port pollution at our nation's third largest port complex.

On a personal note, it would have also been nice for the EDC and the Port Authority to acknowledge my efforts - a decade worth of activism and advocacy for no personal gain - which was often lonely, thankless work, with no-one seemingly interested in the beginning. From the time I started writing letters to the City and to my neighbors about this issue in 2005, it was many years of research, writing, blogging, shouting into the abyss, going to meetings, and slowly building community awareness. I was joined by a few others who were on-board early with this fight who should also be acknowledged. My old friend, Diana Schneider, from Columbia Street Waterfront District, who for many years had been going to local meetings, demanding action on port pollution. Sherri Harden, from the Red Hook Initiative, who has been an early and staunch advocate for shore power at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal and the health benefits it would bring to our already pollution-burdened community. Finally, when progress was stalling, our representatives started to really get on board and demand this technology be put into use at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. That made a difference. I think people in power finally realized that this plan was a "no-brainer" and that the health and environmental benefits (as is now stated in the EDC's press release) would be pretty impressive.

To reiterate:

The use of shore power by cruise ships at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal (will) … “eliminate 1,500 tons of carbon dioxide, 95 tons of nitrous oxide, and 6.5 tons of particulate matter annually. The health benefits associated with improved air quality will generate approximately $99 million in cumulative savings over 15 years.”

It's a disappointment that those (including our representatives) whose efforts ultimately helped to bring these benefits to our neighborhood and beyond aren't being recognized as part of an event marking this achievement - the much anticipated use of shore power use at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. Wouldn't the fact this technology has finally come on line be something that should be celebrated, as happened in San Diego in 2010 when the "switch was flipped" on their shore power infrastructure? I guess not.

That absence of celebration and acknowledgment makes this victory a little less sweet.

Follow me on Twitter: @ViewFromTheHook