Port operator on the Hook: City backs down from plan to evict longshoremen

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City officials are on the brink of rolling out a new development plan for the Red Hook waterfront — a move that is expected to keep cargo ships on the piers and scuttle a plan to expand the Brooklyn cruise ship terminal, borough officials said this week.

“We are in serious negotiations and positions are changing,” said one source involved in talks with the Economic Development Corporation.

The new plan would end years of lobbying by American Stevedoring Inc., the current operator of the Red Hook Container Terminal, which was slated to be evicted to make room for an expanded ship terminal, plus a factory and beer garden for the Brooklyn Brewery and other retail and maritime attractions.

The tourist-friendly redevelopment was part of Mayor Bloomberg’s larger vision of a “Harbor District” of waterfront parks. But port advocates have argued — apparently successfully — that the plan would lead to luxury residential development on Brooklyn’s last working waterfront.

“There has been a shift,” said Councilman David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights).

This week, Yassky took advantage of the city pullback to submit a resolution demanding a long-term lease for ASI, a well-connected company whose executives donate tens of thousands of dollars to local candidates.

Evicting ASI would have meant years of legal challenges for the city and the Port Authority, both of which have gone up against the company in court before.

“It is a powerful company with money to do battle,” said one insider who worked with ASI lawyers to stop the residential conversion of the two six-story loft buildings overlooking the port on Imlay Street.

Those massive white buildings remain vacant today, a victory for ASI, but of little value to a borough starved for housing.

Also left hanging by ASI’s latest victory is Steve Hindy, president of Brooklyn Brewery, who now says he will consider relocating to a city-owned lot along the Gowanus Canal rather than continue his Red Hook dream.

“I have a limited time before my lease expires in Williamsburg and so I have to look at my options,” he said. “[Red Hook] is still the most attractive location for Brooklyn Brewery because of the incredible location, but there are other places.”

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