City scolded on im-port-ant plan

The Brooklyn Paper
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Brooklynites last night panned a nearly finalized city plan to bring a beer distribution trucking facility to a pier in Red Hook instead of an earlier city vision that called for more recreational and maritime use of the waterfront.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation plans to lease the unused Pier 11 in the Atlantic Basin, a protected cove off Conover Street, to Phoenix Beverages, a family-owned business that imports and distributes suds in New York City and surrounding suburbs and touted it at Community Board 6 meeting as a way to protect jobs and promote shipping to the neighboring port, where Phoenix will receive its foreign ales.

But many residents favored proposals that the agency rejected in November from NY Water Taxi and other developers that sought to build a beach, shipyard, and shopping. They criticized the Bloomberg Administration for planting an old-school trucking depot in a spot once targeted for more modern uses.

“It’s the same old way of thinking,” kvetched Declan Walsh, a Red Hook resident, one of about 100 people who attended the meeting in Long Island College Hospital. He added that the city had pitted “the new waterfront versus the old.”

But the city’s said its plan is more than the boon to longshoremen and Teamsters of unloading boats and loading 18-wheelers. EDC officials said they still intend to solicit proposals for a cultural space and a marina. Their vision will also establish a ferry link to Governors Island.

Yet in Red Hook, where worries about increased commercial traffic have become a widespread neighborhood phobia thanks to the Fairway supermarket, cruise ship terminal and Ikea, the proposition of keg-laden trucks rumbling just a few blocks to the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway were met with dread.

“I don’t look forward to seeing new trucks when we’re already dealing with pollution issues,” said Adam Armstrong, another attendee.

In spite of the concerns, the city plans to hammer out a deal by March, an agreement that it says will bolster Brooklyn’s last active docks.

“The Red Hook Container Port is extremely valuable,” said Venetia Lannon, a vice president of the Economic Development Corporation. “We need to see more goods, not less [passing through the port].”

That rationale is in stark contrast to Mayor Bloomberg’s failed quest to drive the shipping company, American Stevedoring, from the piers. Rather than freighters, the mayor once envisioned luxury housing, entertainment, shopping and a maritime-themed center. But this spring, the Port Authority ended up giving a new 10-year lease to American Stevedoring — with the city’s consent.

The fight to control Atlantic Basin is the latest battle in the war over precious maritime infrastructure, which has been in decline as the city spurs commercial, residential and recreational development at the water’s edge. Several years ago, the city allowed one of its few remaining graving docks — a repair yard for ships — to be plowed under to make room for the Ikea.

This time, old school maritime uses won out — much to the chagrin of Tom Fox, the founder of NY Water Taxi, who sought Pier 11 to expand his ferry fleet, and Portside New York, a nautical non-profit that wanted the basin to be a home for cultural programs.

The audience seemed more supportive to Fox and Portside’s ideas than the city proposal. Fox said Pier 11 was ideal for him because it provides a barrier to open water that protects his delicate vessels.

“Where can we grow?” the ferryman asked.

Fox suggested that Phoenix could use space on a pier near Atlantic Avenue controlled by American Stevedoring, whose workers will be unloading Phoenix Beverage imports wherever the company ends up.

But that idea, which has been repeated by many neighborhood activists, is impossible because the city cannot force American Stevedoring to give space to Phoenix, a flaw in the Port Authority lease, some say.

But those people don’t understand working on a pier, apparently.

“Telling us to put beer there is like telling us to put beer in the Empire State Building,” said Greg Brayman, vice president of Phoenix.

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Reader Feedback

Mary from Red Hook says:
While it sucks that EDC reneged on its original plan, I don't see how the community can stop a legal, as-of-right use from setting up shop at Pier 11. When the two residents quoted in the article bought their homes, didn't they know the piers were zoned for maritime use or were they banking on the SOHOfication of Red Hook.
Jan. 6, 2009, 3:43 pm
Pat from Bay Ridge says:
It's important that not the entire waterfront gets gentrified with condos and superstores because sooner or later we'll need that space again for... yep, industry.
Jan. 6, 2009, 11:44 pm
Adam from Red Hook says:
Mary, you don't know what I want for our neighborhood. Don't tar me with that same "gentrifying yuppie" brush so many seem to revert to when attacking residents such as myself who want something better for our families and neighborhood. It's an easy and low shot, and right off the mark. I've been here since Re Hook was a no-go zone to many. I've always loved the mix of industry and residential down here. It's all a matter of what type, and scale - balanced with the needs of our residents. You know about our 197-a Plan? Balance is the key. I don't want condos on the waterfront. I'm all for Tom Fox's plan to bring his water taxis to the Atlantic Basin, and Portside's Mary Whalen. Hardly yuppie enterprises. I don't want more trucks on our streets. We already have too many endangering the lives and poisoning the lungs of our children. Please refrain from slighting me in this anonymous fashion. If you know me, come up and talk to me. It's much more neighborly.
Jan. 7, 2009, 12:45 am
freddy from slope says:
sorry adam.

brooklyn gave up the health of its children when the trolleys left.

toxin sprewing is the way and will continue for some time.

and keep you kids of my streets.

we are tired of culling the herd.
Jan. 7, 2009, 3:04 pm
Chris from Columbia St Waterfront says:
Why does the Brooklyn Paper fail to mention PortSide in this or any other article related to the topic? They were one of the three officially scheduled presenters after all and have been involved in these discussions throughout the process.

Here is a summary of the presentations, of which PortSide is very much included:

Luckily for PortSide (and the Greenway), it seems that there will be room for at least some aspects of their proposals in whichever plan gets ultimately chosen. I do believe that to be newsworthy, along with their presentation and the various elements involved in it.
Jan. 7, 2009, 5:20 pm
Jack Vogel from Red Hook says:
First, it would be useful for your paper to investigate the Tom Fox proposals which contain many pitfalls and inaccurate claims. As well, his expanding business has done so only by virtue of enormous taxpayer subsidies both city and federal!!! That has been reported to end this spring.

Next, why,has your reporter ignored the presentation given by PortSide NewYork at this meeting. Were PortSide to be given a home in Atlantic Basin, which would not conflict with Phoenix, everybody wins. The city gets the revenue from Phoenix and the neighboyhood gets a new asset: a cultural, recreational, and educational resource, as outlined in PortSide's visionary programs
Jan. 7, 2009, 10:43 pm
Richard Dey from Red Hook says:
I was at the meeting and except for Portside, the other, I'm sure well intentioned, bidders seem to see Atlantic Basin as "cheap quarters". Which frankly, after cutting through either "empty promises" or disecting the "real impacts" on Red Hook are just more Fairways and Ikeas that will increase unwanted traffic and really do nothing for Red Hook. How can such a wonderful community asset be wasted without community benefit?
Jan. 8, 2009, 1:08 pm
Andy from parkslope says:
I will swap you my basement apartment for your house in Red hook with the trucks and the bus's and people working and making noise and spending money.
You All love the beer I sell but you don't want to see the truck that has to deliver it or the place that brews it....please take your yoga studios and your publicly funded art space and stick it.... red hook was a place to work and make things, move things get your hands dirty..but you payed the bills...put food on the table.
Sorry if I offended your ipad centered life at the coffee shop !
March 7, 2012, 10:45 am

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