A plan to reduce the air pollution being belched by cruise liners at the Red Hook ship terminal fell apart in a jurisdictional dispute that has left locals literally gasping for air.
A solution to the nuisance of smoke-spewing cruise ships looked imminent in January, when the Port Authority pledged to spend $1.5 million on electrical infrastructure, and Carnival Cruise lines promised to retrofit its Brooklyn fleet.
The missing piece, the Port Authority and city claimed, was discounted electricity from Con Edison, because the standard rate for the juice is too high to justify turning off the diesel engines in favor of plugging in.
But the state Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities, nixed the so-called “shore power” idea on jurisdictional grounds in April, telling the Port Authority and the city to negotiate instead with the New York Power Authority, the port agency’s main supplier of electricity.
Locals’ hopes were dashed.
“The residents of Red Hook are bearing the brunt once again,” said Adam Armstrong, who lives on Pioneer Street and has made “cold ironing” a personal crusade.
State documents, citing federal environmental standards, depict the seafaring ships and their fossil-fuel-burning generators as an easily eliminated health hazard.
“New York City’s air quality is among the worst in the nation and port-related air emissions are meaningful and avoidable,” the Public Service Commission decision said.
It was unclear why the Port Authority and the city had appealed to Con Edison, but a spokesman for the Port Authority now says that the agency is in negotiations with the New York Power Authority.
For Armstrong, the highly charged issue surged with renewed importance last week when the Port Authority extended the lease of the cruise terminal from 2019 to 2029. It also raised his environmental hackles when it gave the city a new lease through 2029 for nearby Pier 11, where the beer importer Phoenix Beverages is relocating its operations, suggesting that more ship and truck traffic are headed for the neighborhood.
“It’s shocking that they’re doing this so swiftly when it’s clear from the evidence that the pollution from the cruise terminal is going to have an impact on the people here,” Armstrong fumed.
The snafu is an embarrassment for the Bloomberg Administration and the Port Authority, which had engineered the proposal to get docked ships to turn off the diesel and, instead, plug into the mainland power grid.
It’s an even stronger disappointment for landlubbers who are breathing the air.