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Anchored! Red Hook port not for sale, will seek bids for management

Last port: The head of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said Wednesday that he supports a plan to sell the Red Hook Container Terminal, a waterfront shipping port roughly the size of Brooklyn Bridge Park. Opponents of the plan, which has been floated before, say it would cost the neighborhood jobs and threaten its working waterfront.
Associated Press / Bebeto Matthews

It’s not the container store.

The Red Hook Container Terminal will continue operating as a shipping facility for at least five more years, despite talk of a potential sale, according to a Port Authority of New York and New Jersey rep who said the transit agency will begin to solicit bids from companies to manage the waterfront site in August.

“We’re starting to monetize the terminal, but we don’t think that’s going to happen in the next five years, so we don’t see issuing the request for proposals as going against our ultimate goal of selling it,” said spokesman Steve Coleman.

Rumors that the bi-state authority might sell the facility swirled after its head honcho voiced support for the idea in June, telling attendees of a real estate conference that the agency should offload the massive parcel — which runs along the East River from the foot of Carroll Street to Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6 — to make money for transit needs.

Red Hook Container Terminal, LLC currently leases the site, which is roughly the size of Brooklyn Bridge Park, and has for the past five years. Coleman wouldn’t say whether the authority will continue the company’s lease, pointing out that the application process is open to anyone.

The current operator gets a $3.75 million subsidy from the Port Authority to help pay for barges to transport cargo to ports outside the city, such as New Jersey’s, where it can be loaded into trucks. Shippers would have to foot the bill for those vessels if the agency pulls its help — an added cost that likely would force budget-conscious cargo companies to use other facilities.

Coleman declined to comment on whether the authority will extend the subsidy to a new operator, only saying that more details will be revealed in the upcoming request for proposals.

“I’ll defer to the RFP when it comes out and what it will call for,” he said.

This is not the first time agency honchos have talked of selling the terminal. The idea was floated in 2008 and again in 2011, but locals and pols rallied against it each time, and have since demanded the terminal stay open because it provides jobs, maintains a working waterfront, and limits air pollution by bringing in cargo on ships, not trucks.

In fact, imported beer such as Heineken would arrive in the city on big rigs were it not for the terminal, where it is shipped from the Netherlands and stored in huge warehouses at Pier 7.

And while Port Authority officials continue to discuss offloading it, the agency is not the only party with a say in the matter. A sale would require approval from the state and city, and all of the pols in the area oppose getting rid of it.

Reps for Congressman Jerry Nadler (D–Bay Ridge) cried wolf on the authority’s suggestion of selling the site, saying it has threatened to hawk it off for years with no result. They cheered the news that the container terminal will stay open for another half-decade, stressing the importance of its continued operation.

“A commitment by the Port Authority for continued container and barge operations at the Red Hook Container Terminal is great news for Brooklyn, and the region, in terms of environmental protection, job creation, resiliency, homeland security, and removing trucks from congested city streets,” a spokesman said.

In other Brooklyn waterfront news, the city is working to secure a new operator for the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal in Sunset Park, which has been closed for more than a decade. It requested bids for a steward in 2015, and plans to name a winner by the end of the year, according to an Economic Development Corporation spokesman.

The news of Red Hook Container Terminal’s continued operation was first reported by Crain’s.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill

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