Columbia Street residents are thrilled that the beverage trucks that once plied their quiet street have been re-routed onto the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway, bringing to an end a familiar controversy in which locals wrestled with the growing port on the waterfront.
The showdown began in May when Phoenix Beverages — a beer distributor in the port between Atlantic Avenue and Bowne Street — began sending its trucks down Columbia Street though it had promised not to do so.
Eventually, Teamsters, bosses from Phoenix Beverages, local pols and residents reached a compromise in which the trucks would bypass Columbia Street by driving on the BQE between Hamilton to Atlantic avenues.
“We’re extraordinarily happy,” said Brian McCormick, a member of the Columbia Waterfront Neighborhood Association. “The trucks are pretty much gone. There is a system in place that is working, and we’re hoping that will continue.”
The trucks are expected to continue cruising on the BQE until the chronically delayed reconstruction of Van Brunt Street is completed, opening up the proper truck route from Degraw Street to Hamilton Avenue (officials say the work could be done next summer).
Meanwhile, the compromise that brought an end to the booze cruise on Columbia Street is being hailed by local pols.
“Phoenix and the Teamsters were willing to adopt a solution that really costs them some money,” said Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope), who was involved in negotiations with the beverage company. “It does add a meaningful amount of time to each of those [truck drivers’] shifts.”
Lander said that several permanent routes are being considered for the trucks once the reconstruction of Van Brunt Street is completed, including keeping the trucks on the BQE, having them travel within the port, or managing the times trucks are allowed to travel on Columbia Street.
For the last several years, other showdowns between the port and local residents have not ended so amicably.
The massive salt pile stored at the port — used to prevent roads from icing over in the winter — has occasionally coated the neighborhood in America’s favorite spice, and remains a major concern among residents near Columbia Street.
The idling cruise ships docked at the port also remain a concern because of the stunning amount of pollution they produce.
But state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D–Brooklyn Heights), said that the solution with Phoenix Beverages sets a good example for other issues that will inevitably arise as the Columbia Street Waterfront develops alongside the port.
“It certainly bodes well,” said Squadron. “We know that a growing neighborhood and a working waterfront present challenges, but this is a great road map for how to work in the future.”