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Bloomy pledges to jumpstart working waterfront

The city plans to reincarnate an industrial hub along the Sunset Park waterfront, investing more than $165 million to accomplish that goal, Mayor Michael Bloomberg pledged this week.

The Sunset Park Waterfront Vision Plan would see the activation of 3.5 million square feet of previously fallow industrial space, the addition of 22 acres of parkland, and the creation of 2,000 industrial and construction jobs over the next two years, and a total of 11,000 jobs in all.

Bloomberg said the city has a “unique opportunity” on Brooklyn’s waterfront “to build upon existing assets %u2013 including a talented workforce and industrial and maritime infrastructure %u2013 to create permanent industrial jobs.

“Through a series of investments aimed at bringing aging infrastructure to good repair, professionalizing maritime and rail service, and increasing and diversifying job-intensive industrial uses along the waterfront, the Sunset Park Waterfront Vision Plan lays out a series of short and long-term steps to strengthen the area as a center for industrial growth,” he continued.

Through the plan, the city will modernize industrial facilities at Bush Terminal and the Brooklyn Army Terminal, reactivate the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal, and promote other environmentally sustainable practices, as well as build Bush Terminal Pier Park and improve pedestrian access to the waterfront. The plan also calls for an upgrade in rail service, which the mayor said could eliminate 70,000 truck trips each year.

At the July 20 announcement, Bloomberg pointed to recent developments in Red Hook including the arrival of Queens-based Phoenix Beverages, the beer distributor that recently finalized a 20-year sublease to occupy Pier 11. The company will also make use of Pier 7.Construction will begin in August and the facility will be operational in six months.

But the city’s Red Hook waterfront plan —devoid of acres of open space and minimal public access — stands in stark contrast to the ambitious vision for Sunset Park, critics said.

“In Red Hook, we look forward to more trucks, more pollution and very little given back to the densely populated neighborhoods hugging the waterfront that are already struggling under the burden of pollution and congestion — no new parks, very little waterfront access, no credible plan for the mitigation of harmful diesel emissions at the container port and with the trucks, no traffic plan, no affordable housing component, and little done to achieve economic benefits for the small businesses sprouting up all over our neighborhood,” Pioneer Street resident Adam Armstrong said.

Economic Development Corporation President Seth Pinsky said relocating Phoenix would be an asset to the region, and could bring 100 new jobs, along with the 500 that will brought from Long Island City.“Reinforcing our working waterfront helps to diversify our economy, strengthen the container port, improves the environment by taking trucks off congested local roads, and ultimately reduces the costs of goods for consumers,” he said.

Sunset Park’s waterfront, developed more than a century ago, has lost much of its competitive luster as a working industrial area as a result of disinvestment and aging infrastructure, according to the mayor’s office. Much of the area’s network of industrial buildings sit as vacant reminders of what once was.

But beginning later this month, the city will begin investing an initial $8.6 million to upgrade city-owned buildings and infrastructure at Bush Terminal. Improvements will include utility installation, roadway reconstruction, and the modernizationof the railroad connection through the campus, according to the mayor’s office.

And while the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal was last used primarily for maritime purposes in 1985, it will soon see a flurry of activity. The city said it will invest $80 million on infrastructure upgrades at the terminal to pave the way for the arrival of two new industrial facilities: The Axis Group and Sims Metal Management.Axis is investing $7 million to develop auto processing and cargo handling operations; Sims is investing $44 million to create a state-of-the-art recycling facility for metals, plastic and glass. Together, the companies will create 360 new, permanent jobs, officials said.

Joining Bloomberg at the announcement, made at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal, located between 29th and 39th streetsalong the waterfront, were Reps. Nydia Velázquez and Jerrold Nadler, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Council member Sara Gonzalez, New York City Economic Development Corporation President Seth W. Pinsky, and Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Carl Hum.

Nadler cheered Bloomberg’s commitment to rail as a viable mode of transportation, and specifically, his support for the Cross Harbor Freight Movement Project, an initiative that will connect the East-of-Hudson region to the national rail network in New Jersey.

“The mayor and I are in firm agreement that all planning and development of this project should be accompanied by thorough study and mitigation of any potential local impacts,” Nadler said.

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