Opinion: Brooklyn Marine Terminal purchase was ‘visionary’

The deal exemplifies an alignment of political interests that led to collaboration and creative problem-solving, while creating green jobs and enhancing regional infrastructure.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul announce the redevelopment plans for the Brooklyn Marine Terminal on May 14, 2024 in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul announce the redevelopment plans for the Brooklyn Marine Terminal on May 14, 2024 in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. (Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

Last week, Gov. Kathy Hochul, Mayor Eric Adams and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced a joint agreement between the city, the state, Port Authority and New York City Economic Development Corporation that will transfer control of the Brooklyn Marine Terminal to the City. As part of this monumental agreement, Red Hook Container Terminal will also be completely under the authority of the city. The in-kind agreement will transform both properties to better integrate commercial activity in the neighborhood, modernize maritime port amenities and create space for a vibrant mixed-use community hub in Brooklyn. In return, the Port Authority will gain full control of Howland Hook Container Terminal on Staten Island. We think it makes sense for the Port Authority to consolidate their properties on Staten Island, and that Howland becomes a strategic part of their port master plan.  

Broadly speaking, the project is visionary – transforming the 122-acre site in Brooklyn while simultaneously helping to potentially create thousands of jobs for New Yorkers and generating significant economic impact for the city. There are also a suite of investments as part of this deal, including $15 million investment in future cold storage facilities, $15 million to secure an electric crane and plans for traffic and safety mitigation on roads that feed into and out of the Brooklyn Marine Terminal’s campus. These investments are important to improve air quality and road safety for the surrounding neighborhood. For Howland, this commitment is coupled with a $200 million investment from the terminal’s operator to modernize the port, expand capacity, and implement sustainability upgrades.

This political alignment between the city and state governments sets a remarkable example of regional collaboration and creative problem-solving. This synergy not only supports the city's investments in more effective last-mile delivery, but it also strengthens plans for green job creation – an essential component of the city's economic development strategy.

But investing in facilities like Red Hook Container Terminal isn’t just a local endeavor; it's a crucial step towards enhancing regional infrastructure, protecting the working waterfront, and fostering sustainable, resilient economic growth for the entire tri-state area. 

Red Hook, despite its smaller size relative to other ports in the region, plays a significant role as the largest full-service container terminal east of the Hudson. Handling imports ranging from produce to lumber to aggregate for the metropolitan area, Red Hook is a lifeline for regional commerce and plays an important role in serving immigrant communities from the Caribbean and South America. Especially as New York is one of the cities in the U.S. with the largest population of Caribbean immigrants.

One of the most notable contributions of Red Hook is its role in alleviating urban congestion. By eliminating over 30,000 truck trips from New York City streets annually, it serves as a vital cog in the city's transportation machinery. Combined with the soon-to-be effective congestion pricing and the significant uptick we’ve seen in package deliveries following the pandemic, this is an indispensable reduction in truck traffic that not only eases gridlock but also contributes to improved air quality and public safety – a win-win for all stakeholders.

City control of Red Hook also enables the retention of essential staging space, critical for future projects like the Brooklyn Queens Expressway rehabilitation project, which will likely rely on barging for construction materials and waste, reducing the need for additional truck trips and mitigating environmental impact to the surrounding neighborhoods. Protecting commercial land uses like these are also important for emergency staging during unplanned events like the Haiti earthquake relief effort in 2010, storage of the crane that collapsed in TriBeca in 2016, and as a somber repository for loved ones during the dark days of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

As we embark on this journey of revitalizing these facilities, community engagement must remain at the forefront. Inclusive participation from local elected officials and grassroots groups will help center environmental justice concerns, and the benefits of this investment are equitably distributed among every impacted community. 

Investing in Red Hook Container Terminal isn't just about bolstering a single terminal; it's about investing in the future resilience and prosperity of our city and region. 

Through collaboration, investments in modernized sustainable infrastructure, and inclusive community engagement, we can unlock the Red Hook's full potential as a driver of economic growth and environmental stewardship for the entire region. 

Tiffany-Ann Taylor is the vice president of transportation at Regional Plan Association (RPA)

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