New hook brew – Beer distributor eyes move to nabe

The city could be close to inking a deal that would bring Phoenix Beverages, one of the country’s largest beer distributors, to Pier 11 in Red Hook, this paper has learned.

“We are very optimistic,” said Rod Brayman, the president of Phoenix Beverage. “It can happen quickly, or not.”

For years, Phoenix has been lobbying the city to help find it a new waterfront home. Those many years—seven by his count—has left Brayman cautious. He was quick to say that until he has signed papers in hand, he would not comment on a time frame for the company’s arrival.

“I truly wish I knew,” he said.

But at least one source said Phoenix could be setting up shop by the summer.

Its arrival would mean the Long Island City-based company would bring its 600 jobs—and truck traffic—to the neighborhood.

At one time, Phoenix’s plans appeared scuttled by the city’s own scheme to transform the waterfront into a visitor-friendly destination complete with hotels, retail shops, and other maritime-themed amenities.

But in April of this year, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey hammered out a long-term lease with American Stevedoring International (ASI), the container terminal occupying Piers 7-10, an agreement that signaled the defeat of the city Economic Development Corporation’s (EDC) ambitious plan.

“We are in discussions with Phoenix, and that’s ongoing,” said Janel Patterson, a spokesperson for the EDC, which leases the pier from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

In 2007, the quasi-public agency issued a request for proposals (RFP) for developers interested in making Atlantic Basin complement its postcard-perfect plan for the waterfront.

But the EDC has even ditched its effort to transform the basin, a 17-acre body of water bounded by Piers 10-12, into a marina. None of the proposals was selected.

“Since the Port Authority is retaining and extending ASI’s lease, we are reevaluating the situation and looking into alternatives that may be more appropriate to our current vision,” Patterson said.

Asked to describe the agency’s new vision for Red Hook’s waterfront, Patterson said, “We are refining it.”

EDC officials are already making the rounds in the neighborhood, visiting with a range of civic groups and tenant associations. “These are private briefings to update stakeholders on our comprehensive plan for Atlantic Basin,” Patterson said.

Patterson said the agency is also in talks “with other entities,” besides Phoenix, including New York Water Taxi.

The company, along with its business partner, Durst Organization, the Manhattan-based real estate development firm, responded to the RFP.

Part of their plan calls for the creation of a man-made beach, along with a dry dock marina.

New York Water Taxi President Tom Fox, told the Columbia Waterfront Neighborhood Association last week that he thought his bid “is a much nicer plan,” compared with the Phoenix proposal.

John McGettrick, the president of the Red Hook Civic Association, said the arrival of Phoenix, which would bring with it 600 already extant jobs, could “limit job development, and could also limit public access to the waterfront—and obviously increase truck traffic in the Columbia Street waterfront area.”

“At first blush, it seems to create more problems than benefits, but I’m really trying to learn more about the proposal,” he added.

He said Fox’s plan, by contrast, envisions hundreds of new jobs.

Steve Hindy, the president of Brooklyn Brewery, cautioned that it is premature to say Phoenix’s arrival is “ a done deal.”

While his company, which is also seeking to relocate to Red Hook, would benefit directly from the beer distributor’s presence, Hindy said he is not a party to his distributor’s negotiations.

“Being close to Phoenix saves us a lot of money,” he said. “We can move finished beer to them much more easily.”

Presently, beer that Phoenix imports arrives into the Port Newark Container Terminal, where it is then trucked to Long Island City, and then dispatched throughout the region. The operations generate almost 30,000 truck trips annually, Hindy noted, adding that that figure would be reduced if Phoenix relocates to Pier 11, as the operation would be more efficient.

If negotiations collapse, Brayman said he would be forced to relocate out of state.

“We are on a timeframe that would lead us to go to New Jersey if we can’t get this done,” he said. “New York City is either going to or not going to have a working port in Brooklyn.”