Highway to swell: Federal designation may unlock grants, sink private plans for waterfront

Highway to swell: Federal designation may unlock grants, sink private plans for waterfront
Demetrius Freeman / Mayoral Photography Office

Talk about sea change.

Two waterfront shipping facilities are now part of America’s Marine Highway System, expanding availability of federal grants for the publicly owned sites, Mayor DeBlasio announced on June 29.

The so-called “reactivation” of the city-owned South Brooklyn Marine Terminal in Sunset Park will bring jobs to the under-used facilities, officials said. But the announcement may put the brakes on a plan by nearby Industry City to use the a portion of the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal for parking, according to an area councilman.

“We will not sacrifice New York City’s maritime and manufacturing future to short-term and shortsighted practices,” Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D–Sunset Park) said during the presser. “And so, this site and the others will not be a parking lot. This site and the others will not be condos. If we prevent the piecemeal development that causes damaging gentrification, that is when we are successful.”

The privately owned Industry City announced in March a $1 billion plan to redevelop the massive campus for manufacturing, retail, educational, and hotel space. And Industry City officials asked the city to provide space at the marine terminal for parking. Industry City’s president said that securing a parking lot near the campus was integral to the group’s plan.

“What we’ve been clear about is one thing — in order to succeed here, we’re going to need additional parking,” Industry City president Andrew Kimball said during the March announcement.

But the mayor echoed Menchaca’s sentiment that passive use was not ideal for the site.

“The goal here is to do the kind of job-creation that provides better jobs for people over the long haul that also complements the long-term vision of port facilities here — so I think it’s safe to say that doesn’t describe a parking lot,” DeBlasio said. “Obviously, sometimes there’s transitional uses, but what we’re looking for is good-paying jobs and uses that are complementary to the bigger vision.”

Now Kimball is weighing his options, he said.

“We’re going to continue to explore, with local stakeholders and the administration, how there can be additional parking to serve both Industry City and other surrounding businesses and the community,” Kimball said after the mayor’s announcement. “We think, overall, this is a very positive step towards job-creation and we think there’s tremendous potential for synergies there between the two sites in the future.”

In May the city inked a master lease for the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal with the Economic Development Corporation — allowing the corporation to sub-lease the property to shipping and manufacturing concerns.

Previously, the city leased the land to car shippers Axis Auto Group in 2007, but the group went bankrupt in 2012 — before it could roll out operations at the site, according to an Economic Development Corporation spokeswoman.

While preparing the site for Axis in 2009, the development corporation applied for a $35 million grant for infrastructure improvements, but the feds denied it the cash.

The new federal highway designation would help the corporation secure such grants in the future, a spokesman said.

The feds also gave the Port Authority-owned Red Hook Container Terminal the highway designation and announced expanded service between the terminal and Port Newark in New Jersey.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeg[email protected]glocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.

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