Port Authority: We don’t want Red Hook shipping to sink

for The Brooklyn Paper
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The Port Authority says it is fighting to keep shipping alive in Red Hook — reversing engines on a plan to relocate the port and make room for hotels and other development on the waterfront.

The agency now claims it is doing everything it can to keep the feds from yanking inspectors from the Red Hook Container Terminal, a move that politicians and longshoremen fear will discourage shipping at the Brooklyn port and destroy jobs.

“We’ve made an economic appeal,” Port Authority director of government and community affairs Brian Simon told a Community Board 6 committee on Monday. “We at Port Authority aim at having [Customs and Border Protection] have a bureau at the port.”

Simon declined to comment on former Port Authority chief Chris Ward’s plans to terminate the terminal and move shipping to Sunset Park, but said his organization has been trying to convince Customs officials to take another look at their decision to pull inspectors from Red Hook.

The Authority even played a role in convincing the feds to postpone cutting certain inspections from the terminal for a 90-day period starting in January, he added.

Government specialists in Red Hook hand inspect about 3,800 containers annually — just six percent of the 59,000 shipments that landed in Brooklyn last year. But Customs says it can improve productivity and save money by cutting hand inspections in Brooklyn and having those parcels trucked to Staten Island or New Jersey to be checked instead.

“The only difference is Red Hook will no longer be a central examination station,” meaning it wouldn’t have Customs officers on call to perform manual inspections but would still retain some Customs staff, federal agricultural inspectors, and radiation monitors, Customs spokesman Anthony Bucci said.

But waterfront businesses and politicians say the plan adds red tape and potential delays for shippers that could cause boats to steer away from Brooklyn, costing the borough as many as 700 jobs and effectively sinking an industry that has been dwindling since the 1970s.

“If a carrier is going to be obligated to have his cargo inspected elsewhere, at an additional cost, why would they come into Brooklyn at all?” said Lou Pernice, president of the International Longshoreman’s Association chapter in Brooklyn. “Customs is trying to save money by consolidating, and they’re passing the cost on to the carriers, who are passing the cost onto us.”

Simon said his agency is in discussions with Customs, but declined to discuss the specifics — though he says he’s optimistic about the outcome.

“We feel like something is sticking,” Simon told the committee. “I’m hopeful in the end that we will all be happy.”

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