De-ported! Transit honcho re-visits plan to sell Red Hook shipping terminal

De-ported! Transit honcho re-visits plan to sell Red Hook shipping terminal
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

This ship could finally sail.

The head honcho of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey supports a long-discussed plan to sell waterfront shipping port the Red Hook Container Terminal to make money for the agency, he told attendees of a real estate conference on Wednesday.

“A core recommendation … was to divest real estate assets which are not producing a flow of income to support investments in transportation infrastructure,” John Degnan said at a conference hosted by Crain’s, the website reported. “Red Hook is a primary example of that. I know there are political difficulties in the state and city of New York to doing it, but the Port Authority would be enormously benefitted.”

The site, which runs along the water from the foot of Carroll Street to Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6 at Atlantic Avenue, is currently leased by Red Hook Container Terminal, LLC. But that agreement expires in 2018, giving the Port Authority — which reps contend is a money-losing operation — an opportunity to sell off the huge chunk of land.

The parcel — roughly the same size as Brooklyn Bridge Park — is already public land, and in turn is more likely to be sold for public use, according to a real estate expert who said it likely would be converted into a combination of parkland and housing, similar to the makeup of its next door neighbor, which is funded by private development.

“Whether it’s parkland that’s subsidized by housing or affordable housing that’s subsidized by market rate housing, it’s really an interesting piece of property,” said Matthew Rosenzweig, a broker for Marcus and Millichap. “It would be the kind of large scale development that really hasn’t occurred in that area.”

Money from such a sale would then be used for transit needs, according to the Port Authority boss.

But opponents of the plan say the transit agency must retain the land to keep the neighborhood’s working waterfront alive, provide jobs, and limit air pollution by bringing in cargo on ships, not trucks.

“We believe that the port is a key element in ensuring that our port district overall retains its position of dominance on the eastern seaboard of the United States,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D–Bay Ridge). “As such, Red Hook Container Terminal must remain open and operational.”

The local lawmaker also fought the transit agency when its executive director recommended getting rid of the terminal in 2011 on the basis that shipping containers were no longer viable in Red Hook.

Another plan, proposed by a Los Angeles-based engineering firm last year, that called for transforming the site into a massive high-rise development with an extended 1 subway line was slammed by locals, who called it a tone-deaf dismissal of the work that goes on along the waterfront.

“AECOM’s vision is pre-Sandy, blind to the surge in waterborne freight addressed by Red Hook Container Terminal, and needlessly destructive of Red Hook’s extensive maritime industry that exists in addition to the container terminal,” said Carolina Salguero, who runs waterfront education group PortSide New York.

The city and state have made efforts to increase shipping in Red Hook, most recently by launching a barge service in 2016 to facilitate transporting freight to Brooklyn from New Jersey.

Degnan’s Wednesday statements were solely a recommendation, and the Port Authority plans to release a report next year on ways to maximize revenue, which could include selling the terminal, according to a spokesman.

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

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