Politicians seek to keep containers in Brooklyn
More than a score of New York politicians have thrown their support behind keeping a container terminal on the Brooklyn waterfront.
A letter signed by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, three members of the U.S. House of Representatives and 16 other state and city politicians asks the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to retain ownership of Piers 7-11 in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn and renew the lease of the current operator, American Stevedoring Inc. (ASI), for a decade.
If this happens, it will be a reversal of recent plans to gentrify parts of the Red Hook waterfront. In December 2005 the port authority began the process of transferring Piers 7-12 to New York City.
A cruise terminal was developed at Pier 12, and the New York City Economic Development Corp. (EDC) was weighing plans to develop other portions of the site into a marina and beer garden. There were also plans by the EDC and to develop a cargo-handling terminal in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn.
But when the EDC proceeded with plans to gentrify Red Hook before a new cargo facility was developed in Sunset Park, there was an outcry culminating in this week’s letter to the port authority.
“The State of New York is horribly underrepresented in ship call capability in the Port of New York and New Jersey,” said Edward J. Kelly, executive director of the Maritime Association of the Port of New York and New Jersey.
The letter to Anthony Shorris, executive director of the port authority, argues that without a current plan by EDC for the piers, “the future of the Brooklyn Port remains unresolved, and millions of dollars in local revenue and the jobs of hundreds of workers are in the balance.”
The politicians said the EDC has not begun a land-use process necessary to allow the transfer of the land from the port authority to the city, or to confirm whether it will ask the port authority to begin seeking “requests for expressions of interest” to operate the container port.
The letter said that if the port authority seeks to see if other companies are interested in operating the port, the current operator, American Stevedoring, would be prevented from adding new contracts and new jobs.
It also said the EDC should delay plans for redevelopment of Red Hook for 10 years and until the alternate container facility is opened in the Sunset Park area of Brooklyn.
The port authority is involved in rent disputes with both the stevedoring firm and a sister warehousing company.
“We are working with the city to solicit the best competitive ideas for bringing jobs and economic activity to those piers, and ASI continues to operate normally there. In the meantime, if ASI wants a long-term lease, a good start would be paying the more than $1 million in back rent it currently owes,” said Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the port authority.
The port authority and the affiliated company, American Warehousing, have a dispute pending before the Federal Maritime Commission over a lease at nearby Pier 7.
But Kelly believes “New York needs a terminal on the east side of the river. You have the whole population of Long Island and you can better serve the population of Manhattan and Brooklyn from Brooklyn than from a New Jersey terminal. You take all those trucks off the bridges and tunnels. It is just inconceivable to give up a viable container operation in New York.”