Brooklyn’s shipping industry will remain afloat, for now, thanks to a deal that will keep Customs inspectors working in Red Hook’s port until 2017, federal officials, waterfront insiders, and politicians say.
Federal overseers stationed at the Red Hook Container Terminal will continue to hand-inspect shipments under a new, five-year agreement between Customs and Border Protection and the Port Authority.
The decision came after Customs announced last year it would slash costs by eliminating manual inspections at the port — a move longshoremen and politicians feared would make shipping to Brooklyn more expensive, sinking an industry that has dwindled in the borough for decades.
Lou Pernice, president of the Brooklyn chapter of the International Longshoreman’s Association, rejoiced at the news.
“I’m happy about that situation, of course,” said Pernice. “If Customs had done what they were planning on doing it would have driven business out of Brooklyn.”
Dock workers and politicians claimed a removal of Customs specialists — who hand inspect about 3,800 containers in Red Hook annually — would sweep away 700 jobs and cause an increase in pollution and security risks in the borough, as suspicious cargo would need to be trucked overland for closer examination in Staten Island or New Jersey.
Amid outcry from longshoremen and politicians including Reps. Jerry Nadler (D–Red Hook), Michael Grimm (R–Bay Ridge), and Nydia Velazquez (D-Red Hook), and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D–Park Slope), the feds issued a 90-day extension, set to expire today, that kept inspectors in Red Hook.
Customs cheered the deal in a press release.
“The agreement takes into account the unique geography and terminal operations at Red Hook, the potential economic impact if certain aspects of Customs’ operations were moved off the terminal, and the overall flow of trade through the port and the region,” the agency said in its statement.