City and beer company raise a glass on Columbia compromise

Beer trucks will no longer ply quaint Columbia Street and will travel along the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway for at least the next six months, city and state officials announced this week.

The temporary measure will put an end to the deluge of Phoenix Beverage trucks traveling to different piers at the port stretching from Atlantic Avenue to Bowne Street, which caused an outcry among Columbia Street residents who insisted that the city had promised the trucks would use an alternate route to avoid their narrow thoroughfare.

Now, trucks will enter and exit the BQE at Hamilton and Atlantic avenues, avoiding Columbia Street altogether.

But locals were irked that the problem arose in the first place, saying that the issue had been discussed at length last year.

“The word ‘disingenuous’ comes to mind — this issue was right at the top in terms of whether the community was going to accept Phoenix as a neighbor,” said Brian McCormick, a Columbia Street resident.

Elected officials echoed the community’s frustration.

“The question the community asked [about trucks on Columbia Street] was clear, and the answer they got was very technical,” said state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D-Brooklyn Heights). “We’re not talking about a court of law, but of expectations.”

But city officials insisted that the agreement with the community only applied to container trucks driving within the port, not the delivery trucks that regularly use Columbia Street, and presented a letter from last May to back it up.

“The agreement says that heavy container trucks would not go through the neighborhood. We’ve abided by that,” said Dave Lombino, a spokesman for the Economic Development Corporation, the city agency in charge of the port. “We are hopeful [the new route] will go a long way to balance the needs of both the residential and industrial community as we look for a more permanent solution.”

The concession by Phoenix Beverages — a hefty one, considering the extra time and gasoline involved in using the frequently congested BQE — was welcomed, but another showdown looms on the horizon.

Once the long-delayed renovations of nearby Van Brunt Street are complete in six months, the trucks will use that truck route to Degraw Street, then drive on Columbia Street to Atlantic Avenue, which will likely irk residents who see the trucks as a danger to pedestrians.

Officials said a permanent solution that would satisfy all parties would be a challenge — the port is teeming with other traffic and crane activity that takes priority over beer trucks.

Sources said that possible alternative routes would involve the trucks driving on another street through the neighborhood, or the establishment of a new internal route within the port.

“It’s a logistical challenge,” said Squadron. “Everyone will have to be flexible — [there has already been] laudable compromise.”

A call to Phoenix Trucks was not returned by our Friday night happy hour deadline.