Spitzer May Have To Referee Battle Over South Brooklyn Waterfront
At a City Council committee hearing yesterday, Rep. Jerrold Nadler criticized the Bloomberg administration for its plans to redevelop Piers 7-12 in Red Hook and shift a fraction of the 42-acre container port now located there to a planned facility in Sunset Park. The city is planning to buy the piers from the Port Authority and redevelop them for a brewery, a second new cruise ship terminal, improved public access, and other cargo-related maritime uses. The city recently backed away from plans to zone for housing near the piers.
“This administration’s lack of credibility has been evidenced time and again through a short-sighted and capricious attitude toward development,” Mr. Nadler said.
The transfer of ownership and change of use must still be approved by Port Authority, which Mr. Spitzer can influence through his appointees, and by the City Council as part of the land use review process expected to start this winter.
The Port of New York and New Jersey is the largest port on the East Coast, but the vast majority of goods travel through Port Elizabeth/Newark in New Jersey. On the New York side, there is a port in Howland Hook on Staten Island, and smaller facilities in Red Hook and Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
Mr. Nadler, along with City Council Member David Yassky, said they hope to see the Red Hook facility preserved until a container port of equal size or bigger is operational in Sunset Park, which could be years away. The city would not commit yesterday to the continuous operation of a Brooklyn container port.
For the long term, Mr. Nadler said he envisioned a vastly expanded Sunset Park container port, in line with a 1999 Giuliani administration plan for a 300-acre facility. He said container traffic from shipping is set to increase exponentially over the next two decades, and New York City should maintain or increase its capacity to meet the demand. Shifting container capacity to ports in New Jersey, he said, would cost local jobs and tax revenues, increase costs of consumer goods for New Yorkers, and expose them to increased risk of potential shortages by forcing truck shipments across the George Washington Bridge.
“If something eliminated that bridge, we would starve,” Mr. Nadler said yesterday.
City officials say the administration’s long-term vision for the south Brooklyn waterfront is based on the greatest amount of job creation, and that container ports are not the most efficient use of space. They say their plan will save existing waterfront jobs and add new jobs.
The executive vice president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation, Kate Ascher, said yesterday at the City Council that the city was dedicated to increasing jobs, but it did not value container jobs over other maritime jobs. She said it might require “thousands” of acres of land to create an economically viable container port in Sunset Park.
” Brooklyn cannot hope to compete in size with its larger sisters in New Jersey and Staten Island,” Ms. Ascher said.
The city is basing some of its predicted job growth on the booming tourism industry and a second planned cruise ship terminal in Red Hook. In May, a cruise ship terminal opened, but critics say it has not delivered on promised jobs. Yesterday, Ms. Ascher said the terminal provides about 250 jobs in the 41 days a year that a ship is docked, and it employs between eight and 10 people on normal days.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Spitzer would not comment yesterday.
NEW YORK SUN
By DAVID LOMBINO
Staff Reporter of the Sun
December 15, 2006