Partially-Completed Park May Give Way to Massive Shipping Terminal
The familiar blue maritime sheds may return to the Brooklyn Heights waterfront -- along with billions of dollars worth of shipping business.
Vowing to restore the Brooklyn waterfront -- from the Brooklyn Bridge to IKEA in Red Hook -- to its former glory as a center of commercial shipping and maritime trade, Mayor Michael Bloomberg today announced that the city's Economic Development Corporation (EDC) had issued an RFP (Request for Proposals) from major players in the deep-water shipping industry.
The proposal would extend the CPIP Brooklyn Waterfront Marine Industrial Zone north of its present configuration to DUMBO.
While the plan was sure to evoke the fury of neighborhood groups that have long supported the partially-constructed "Brooklyn Bridge Park" along the waterfront there, the Mayor pointed out that "economic realities" have changed in the years since the park was planned.
"We don't have the money to finish a park there, much less maintain it," the Mayor candidly told a business crowd gathered for an early power breakfast at Gracie Mansion. "And face it, it's the perfect place for a container terminal."
The Mayor said that national economic development funds were available for deep water dredging, a requirement for modern container ships. Those same funds, however, would not be available for recreational uses like parks.
An addendum to the CPIP Brooklyn Waterfront project extends the proposed Marine Industrial Zone north to DUMBO.
A Long Maritime History
The waterfront along Brooklyn Heights has a long history as a commercial port, dating back to the 16th century. Starting in the 1950s, however, the city began to lose much of its maritime trade to the container ship facility at nearby Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal in Newark Bay, now the largest such port on the Eastern Seaboard.
"In the long run more New Yorkers will benefit from a container port than a park," the Mayor said. "Number one, the port will generate literally thousands of jobs. And the city will make millions in fees from the international maritime trade. Having a major port right in the city will also cut down on the massive number of trucks driving over the George Washington Bridge every day delivering goods from the port in New Jersey. The traffic and pollution in Manhattan from that alone is tremendous."
Shipping Lines Positive
While APM-Maersk and the Evergreen Line, two major shipping groups, said the surprise announcement would be "eagerly" examined, civic organizations appeared to be caught by surprise.
"WTF?" said a confused Regina Myer, President of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation. "We just built a multi-million dollar park down there!"
Judy Stanton, executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association, said she hadn't yet finished reading the proposal. "But if this thing is what I think it is, it's going to blow Brooklyn Heights back to the 50s."
Railroad fan Bob Diamond said he could see great potential for reconstructing the rail line that one ran along the waterfront.
Anthony Masullo, a retired longshoreman who frequently eats lunch at the senior center on Pierrepont Street in Brooklyn Heights, was all for the idea. "Those were the days," he said. "Me and Tony, we used to work all day on the docks and then we'd drink all night at Joe's. We'd wake up on the street without a penny in our pockets.Then we'd just go straight back to work."
But Borough President Marty Markowitz had only one word for the proposal. "“Forgeddaboutit!” he said.
Top photo courtesy Brooklyn Public Library
This was an APRIL FOOLS story!
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