Columbia Street residents were all for a vibrant port that brought jobs to the community — just not one that came with beer trucks careening down their street.
Locals are now demanding that Phoenix Beverages — a distributor retrieving beer at two piers in the port stretching from Atlantic Avenue to Bowne Street — stop sending its trucks down their narrow thoroughfare, something the company promised not to do as recently as last year.
“Why are they here?” asked resident Brian McCormick. “[The city] made a commitment around a year ago to use the internal truck route for truck movements between Piers 7 and 11. It was the lead issue — how Phoenix would affect the circulation of traffic!”
It’s unclear why Phoenix trucks are using Columbia Street to shuttle beverages between Piers 7 and 11, given that there’s a perfectly good route inside the port.
One theory is that Phoenix is using Columbia Street to avoid a port fee imposed by the Waterfront Commission, an agency that was created decades ago to crack down on corruption.
“The trucks avoid driving within the port to avoid a Commission fee,” Councilman Brad Lander (D-Park Slope) told Community Board 6 last week. “The Commission gets a kickback from truck drivers who are counted as stevedores!”
But Phoenix Vice President Greg Brayman said the fee has nothing to do with his trucking routes because no true alternate route exits inside the port and besides, his company is not liable for any payment to the commission.
“Our trucks have to go through the manned gate at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal,” said Brayman. “As for the Waterfront Commission, my beverage trucks aren’t subject to any taxes.”
A lawyer with the Waterfront Commission, Phoebe Sorial, said otherwise. “We are aware of the issue and are working to determine if Phoenix is assessable,” said Sorial.
And that is likely at the heart of the issue. Phoenix says its trucks shouldn’t be subject to a Waterfront Commission tax. The Commission thinks otherwise.
One Columbia Street resident, Ronda Savoy, said she typically saw around seven Phoenix beer trucks pass while waiting 15 minutes for the B61 to arrive and that the vehicles are causing traffic.
“You can barely cross the street,” said Savoy. “I was at that meeting [where Phoenix and the city pledged to use an internal route]. None of us believed them.”
For now, Brayman’s trucks continue careening back and forth on Columbia Street, and some locals say they are driving too fast — especially considering there is already extra truck traffic due to the long-delayed road improvements on Columbia Street that force other trucks to drive there instead of on Van Brunt Street.
“The trucks are trying to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible, so they do barrel down Columbia Street,” McCormick said.
McCormick added that this episode was only one more example of what he saw as a lack of consideration from the various businesses operating in the port, which is right across the street. Over the winter, locals had fought with the port over a giant salt pile stored there, which one windy day coated the neighborhood in America’s favorite flavor enhancer.
“[There is] an utter disregard for engaging the neighborhood,” said McCormick. “People expect better, talk to your neighbors!”
©2010 Community News Group
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