Sunset Park pols kick off Earth Week at nabe’s future offshore wind hub

The 39th Street pier, now home to empty warehouses, will be converted to support the assembly of wind turbines.
Photo by Jessica Parks

Sunset Park advocates and elected officials kicked off Earth Week on Monday by celebrating the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal’s position on the frontlines of the climate crisis. 

“Today we are here to honor the progress that Sunset Park and Brooklyn’s working waterfront are making in the path to a greener future,” said Sunset Park Congressmember Nydia Velazquez. “This victory for the community brings us one step closer to a working, sustainable waterfront by creating a production hub for the offshore wind industry in New York City.” 

A years-long fight to revitalize the southern Brooklyn neighborhood’s waterfront has culminated with the terminal playing an integral role in the development of three incoming offshore wind farms off of New York’s coast — serving as a wind-turbine assembly plant that is projected to create 1,200 jobs in the community. 

“This project is well suited to meet the goals set out five years ago by Sunset Park waterfront planning and jobs passport to maximize the waterfront’s potential as an economic hub of traditional and innovative industry, job creation and workforce development,” Velazquez said.  

The plan was announced in January after the project’s operator, Norwegian energy company Equinor, was given the go-ahead by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to build two offshore wind farms off the coast of Long Island and named the Sunset Park marine terminal as their new assembly site.

Politicians and community leaders lauded the $200 million in funding authorized by the energy development authority to reconstruct the terminal’s dilapidated 39th Street pier into one that can support wind turbines that are said to be as tall as the Chrysler Building. The state funds will be matched by private funds to complete the project.

Wind turbines on offshore wind farms are much larger than the lone turbine seen at South Brooklyn Marine Terminal.Photo by Jessica Parks

“We applaud NYSERDA for moving $200 million to jumpstart the offshore wind industry in the state and transform SBMT into a wind port,” said Elizabeth Yeampierre, executive director of environmental justice organization Uprose.

Yeampierre called the coming port “a necessary investment to position Sunset Park — an environmental justice community at the frontlines of the climate and COVID crisis — to become a regional clean energy hub and [use] our industrial sector to build climate adaptation, innovation and resilience.” 

The South Brooklyn Marine Terminal, located west of Industry City on First Avenue, will serve as the staging, installation and maintenance hub for the offshore wind equipment of Equinor’s two Empire wind farms, located about 50 miles off the coast from the Verazzano Bridge, and for a third incoming farm off the coast of eastern Long Island. The three wind farms are projected to generate enough energy for the state to power more than 1.8 million homes for a year. 

“Right here will live a wind-turbine staging, an installation facility, operation-maintenance facilities and a substation to support the Empire and Beacon wind projects off the coast of Long Island,” said Rachel Loeb, acting president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation, which played a crucial negotiating role in the initiative. 

The 73-acre space will allow turbines for the three farms to be assembled concurrently. Assembly is expected to begin in about three years after permitting and a necessary reconstruction of the 39th Street pier, where dredging and bulkhead construction will allow it to withstand the massive turbine components it will handle. 

“That will be the main berthing area for receiving the vessels with the largest components and all of that area has to be upgraded,” said Mike Stamatis, operator of Sustainable-SBMT, a consortium consisting of Red Hook Terminal Enterprises and Industry City and the marine terminal’s leaseholder.

The South Brooklyn Marine Terminal is the first of its kind in the United States, according to pols, who hope it will be looked at as a role model for the future development of climate infrastructure by other city and state governments across the country. 

“New York has the opportunity and the investment necessary to be a global green energy leader,” said Congressmember Jerry Nadler, who represents a slice of Sunset Park containing the marine terminal.

With a new industry comes completely new jobs and skills not previously done by any New Yorkers, stakeholders stressed, adding that a multimillion-dollar fund will be created to train Sunset Parkers for these green jobs. 

“Specifically, there is going to be a $5 million fund to make sure that the residents of Sunset Park get an opportunity to train and compete for the jobs that will be created in their front yard, and that they will fully participate in the transition from a carbon-based economy to one that is green and sustainable,” Loeb said.

Through its construction and in its function, the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal will also support the city’s small businesses by utilizing local supply chains with a focus on women- and minority-owned businesses. 

“Our partners also agreed to a high participation M/WBE goal, and they will support local businesses so that they can learn how to participate in the offshore wind supply chain,” Loeb said. “It’s a community benefits package that we are really proud of.”