Monday, January 5, 2009

The future of the Atlantic Basin and Pier 11 (CB6 Meeting)

Whew, I just got back from the Community Board 6 meeting that took place tonight regarding the plans for Atlantic Basin/Pier 11. There is WAY too much information to write about in tonight's post, but I will try to add more details over the next few days and will also refer people to check PortSide's website, as they taped the entire meeting and will transcribe it for the site (speaking of which, they need volunteers to transcribe!).

The image above (from Brooklyn Paper) is an aerial shot of the site, taken from the North side (looking South). The basin is the enclosed body of water, while Pier 11 is the pier that runs along it. There is a large amount of warehouse space on the pier, as well as some open space to the south of the large warehouse and parking behind the warehouse (on the left of the picture.)

Here are some of the main highlights of tonight's meeting (in my own words, based on my notes):

1) Venetia Lannon of the EDC presented their plan for the site, which contrary to hints in the media and the rumor mill is not a done deal. The plan includes the following:
  • Phoenix Beverages will have lease for Pier 11 and building 185. This plan is "shovel ready" and will move the Phoenix operation, which consists primarily of beverage importing and distribution to the Red Hook site
  • Plan includes a connection to the Brooklyn Greenway, either through the site or on a nearby street
  • Portions of the site will be accesible to the public, including a small park on the Southern side
  • There will be space for a cultural use, for which an RFP will be issued. Ms. Lannon mentioned PortSide as being a strong contender for this use. This includes cultural vessel tie-up (i.e. the Mary Whalen) and cultural space in building 185.
  • There will also be landing for the Governor's Island ferry, connecting Brooklyn to the very large destination/green space that is Governor's Island
  • There will also be the availability of "Vessel Tie-up" for workboats, ferries, or other boat types. There will be an RFP issued for this aspect as well
Some reasons for EDC choosing this plan and general benefits behind it:
  • It will capture some of the cruise ship passengers (and local residents) through public access and tours that offer history, culture, education, etc. while maintaining the working waterfront through Phoenix.
  • Phoenix expects to bring 500+ jobs to Red Hook (many existing employees from their other sites, while the remainder will be hired locally). Jobs are high paying, unionized jobs.
  • Phoenix, if allowed to install a filling station, wuld commit to converting 100% of their trucks to CNG (natural gas), making it one of the greenest operations on the waterfront. Their location here would also eliminate 20,000 truck trips per year regionally. Also worth noting, all goods will be coming in by water, but going out by truck. Its not trucks going in and out, as many people have described. Also, they will travel down Bowne Street for easy access to the BQE, rather than travelling through residential streets.
2) Next, Tom Fox of NY Water Taxi made a presentation about his plan, which was rejected by EDC in favor of the above plan. Here are some of the details:
  • Went over personal history of park planning on the west side of Manhattan and advocating for parks, green space, and waterfront access for communities in NYC
  • Started Water Taxi to connect and NYC's waterfronts. Now has 15 locations, 6 different routes/services and provides uses for recreation, education, entertainment, commutation, tourism, and more.
  • Currently has 10 boats on Greg O'Connell's property [by Fairway], but is continually expanding and needs more space. Also has an additional 2 leased boats and a fuel barge.
  • Many local residents, including residents from the Red Hook Houses, are employed, and have often gone on to Captain and management positions. Has also provided a channel for students and graduates from the NY Harbor School to get interships and jobs.
  • Atlantic Basin, due to design, is perfect location for his type of boats (small aluminum boats) due to its protective nature/design
His plan incorporates the following:
  • Tie up service for tugs, dinner boats, NYPD, Cast Guard, etc.
  • A dry stack marina for storage of boats (including Water Taxis and other)
  • Will bring over 800 construction jobs and around 219 full time operational jobs with this plan
  • Will work with the Durst Organization, which is known for environmentalism, Westrec Marine, who have done many similar developments internationally, and FxFowle Architects.
  • Will insall a beach like the Long Island City Water Taxi Beach
  • Will open up views to the waterfront through Verona St.
  • Under this plan, ASI, PortSide, Water Taxi, and the Greenway, could all co-exist.
3) Next, Carolina Salguero of PortSide NY presented on her organization and the plans that they submitted for the EDC RFP. Her plans included the following:
  • Space for the prime feature of PortSide, the tanker Mary Whalen. This vessel would be used as a year-round cultural destination, including tours, history, education programs, and more
  • A cafe/event space that would sell food and beer/wine as a way of generating employment and proceeds for the organization. Will be a cultural space that serves food/beverage more so than a cafe that has occasional events.
  • A business center, including copying, supplies, fax machines, and more that could be used by the maritime industry as well as local residents and businesses, of which profits would go into the organization and community programs
  • A career center that will channel local residents and youth into maritime industries
  • A landing for excursion and charter vessels, of which profits could also go into PortSide and community programs
  • Shore side services for maritime industries
  • Usage and linkage of local business (with proven track record of doing so in the past)
  • Possibly a community sailing program, to teach local residents how to sail and allow people to utilize the water
  • Possibly a maritime trail that would serve as a cultural/educational destination
  • Possibly the availability of harbor tours as a way to generate profit and bring visitors/tourists around the NY harbor
Various elements of above will be in the basin itself, in the outdoor space, or in buildings, including bulding 185. These indoor spaces will have cultural/educational programming (for year-round usage), as well as potential extra space for a carpenter shop and the Flotsam project.

Details about many of the programs above can be read at the PortSide website here.


These 3 presentations provide a glimpse into the many options that the site could be utilized for. Afterward, there was a Q&A session in which many questions and points of contention were raised. It is too long to go into all of this, but a couple of issues that stand out in my mind are the following:

  • A suggestion of moving Phoenix to Pier 7, which both Phoenix and the EDC state as being impossible without the agreement of Port Authority
  • A suggestion of pushing back the tentative final agreement date of March 2009 to allow the community time to approach Port Authority and request/demand that Phoenix be located on Pier 7 so as to allow Pier 11 to be used for Water Taxi and/or PortSide or other uses.
  • The displacement of BDI, a local business of over 10 years, from building 185, due to these plans.
Hopefully over the next week, and after reading otehr media/posts, I can go into some more details of other issues raised.

Overall, one positive note is that it seems highly likely that there will be a space for at least some aspects of PortSide's plans in any of the above plans. I think this is a very important aspect in the outcome of this site.

In regards to the other two, I cannot personally say which I favor. I think the ultimate solution would be getting Port Authority to allow for Phoenix at Pier 7 and to put Water Taxi AND PortSide, along with the Greenway, at Pier 11.

If this can't be done its a hard call, because losing Phoenix would be a major loss in the shipping industry and the working waterfront. This area, along with the Sunset Park container port, are the last working waterfronts in all of NYC. Phoenix would be forced to move to Jersey, bringing with them all of their jobs.

To be continued..........

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post! Your summary is unbiased and nuanced. Very refreshing for Red Hook - a place prone to polemics!