BEER PIER NOT NEAR Brooklyn Brewery: City dragging feet on Pier 7

The Brooklyn Paper
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It seems as though most everyone on what remains of Brooklyn’s working waterfront is on-board to welcome Brooklyn Brewery, and its exclusive distributor, Phoenix Beverage, to Pier 7 — except the owners of the pier.

Steve Hindy, who owns the Williamsburg-based Brooklyn Brewery, told The Brooklyn Papers this week that while he is eager to relocate and expand his operations and distribution center to the pier just south of Atlantic Avenue, that plan is being delayed by the existing tenant and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the pier.

“What I’m trying to understand is, given the position of the Port Authority, that they’d like to see Phoenix and Brooklyn Brewery there, why can’t we get this done? It’s kind of frustrating,” Hindy said on Tuesday.

“All the indications we have had from the Port Authority is they think Phoenix and Brooklyn Brewery would be great for the pier,” he added.

After much promotion as the ideal tenant by the city’s Economic Development Corporation, which is working with the Port Authority to redevelop the piers from Cobble Hill to Red Hook, the popular microbrewery finds itself caught in a riptide of dissent over the future of the piers.

The current tenants of Pier 7, American Stevedoring Inc. (ASI), a container shipping and warehouse facility, agreed to vacate the pier to make way for the tourist-friendly brewing company and its Long Island City-based distribution partner.

What ASI requested first from the Port Authority was proof, such as an advance lease, of the commitment to bringing the brewery to the pier, which in coming years would find itself situated between a cruise ship terminal and Brooklyn Bridge Park, a mammoth commercial, luxury condominium and open-space waterfront development inhabiting Piers 1-6.

In August, the Port Authority attempted to evict American Warehousing, a partner company of ASI, from the “southern half of Pier 7,” and in response the company filed a complaint with the Federal Maritime Commission alleging discriminatory practices by the Port Authority, which had concurrently been stalling on granting the longtime shipping company a new lease on the piers.

The company, which employs 600 longshoremen, took a big hit last year when the Port Authority failed to renew their lease for piers 5 through 11. The agency instead ceded piers 5 and 6 to Brooklyn Bridge Park, and Pier 11 to a new cruise ship dock. The renewed lease, issued in December, runs through 2007, but is only for piers 7, 8, 9a, 9b and 10.

In the meantime, Brooklyn Brewery has been left bobbing in the waves, and now ASI is allied with the brewery in efforts to maintain the shipping port.

“American Stevedoring, elected officials, Brooklyn Brewery and Phoenix Beverage have all offered a framework for a comprehensive resolution, specifically providing for Phoenix Beverage-Brooklyn Brewery at Pier 7,” said Matt Yates, ASI’s director of governmental affairs.

Yates said ASI has offered to drop its lawsuit seeking to remain on Pier 7 on the provision that the pier be seamlessly handed over to Brooklyn Brewery and Phoenix Beverage, with something guaranteeing the deal in writing.

He said the Port Authority sued American Warehousing, saying that, among other things, “we need to evict them from these piers because we need to put Phoenix on Pier 7,” Yates said. “Are we willing to give the Port Authority the pier back, just as they took Pier 6 back?” he asked and answered his own question, saying, “Not without an executed lease with Phoenix Beverages.”

Since word that Brooklyn Brewery was eyeing Pier 7 broke last year, the Port Authority and the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC), as well as Borough President Marty Markowitz, have expressed a desire to bring the brewery to the waterfront site.

This week, the EDC was still on the mark with that message.

“I know we are talking to a company called Phoenix Beverage that’s based in Long Island City, and they are interested in locating to Pier 7,” said EDC spokeswoman Jennifer Nelson, which brokered a 30-year lease deal with Carnival and Norwegian cruise lines to dock in Brooklyn, at piers 11 and 12, starting in 2006.

“I know they have an interest in wanting to move to Pier 7, and because of the litigation, that’s not proceeding,” she said.

But Hindy’s hopes, which involve getting Phoenix Beverage set up as an active exporting business by cargo ship at Pier 7, in order to increase the brewery’s international distribution, may be at odds with what the city’s deputy mayor for economic development, Daniel Doctoroff, has said is the city’s priority for the piers.

In an April interview with The Brooklyn Papers, Doctoroff predicted the effective death of shipping on the Red Hook-Cobble Hill piers, saying the city had no plans to maintain shipping operations there past 2007.

He said at the time that the city had “not made a final judgment as far as what to do for piers 7 through 9,” but said Pier 10 was an “inevitable” part of the cruise port plans, which would wipe out all of ASI’s remaining operations.

Port Authority spokesman Steve Coleman said this week that he was unable to discuss anything involving pending litigation, and declined to comment on the agency’s interest in bringing Brooklyn Brewery to Pier 7.

“That whole issue gets into litigation, and for me to answer that question would be airing obvious stipulation,” Coleman said. About Brooklyn Brewery, he said, “I guess they will have those discussions after we get the litigation behind us.”

Hindy said he would create an extended beer garden on the pier that could offer tours of the brewing facilities as well as increase production. He also said the brewery and Phoenix would generate economic wealth for the borough and the city, and save his own company a great deal of expense currently being used to pay for truck hauls to bring the exports to Port Elizabeth in New Jersey for shipment.

“Phoenix would be bringing in thousands of containers of Heineken and import beers; it would be a lot of business for the Brooklyn piers,” said Hindy. “Brooklyn Brewing will probably export 75,000 cases of beer — that’s 80 or 90 containers going out.”

“We’re going to be expanding, our beer has caught on in Denmark,” he added. “Being able to ship directly off the pier would save us significant money in transporta­tion.”

Brooklyn Heights Councilman David Yassky, who chairs the Waterfront Committee and also sits on the committee for economic development, said the bi-state agency had brought things to a standstill.

“I do not understand the Port Authority position here — if the Port Authority is happy with Phoenix as a replacement, then they should agree to that and it will happen; if not, then say so and explain why,” Yassky said. “I don’t know what more they could ask for, because Phoenix is an excellent maritime use with real jobs.

“If they don’t want Phoenix, then say so,” he said. “If they do want Phoenix — as they should — I don’t know why they’re insisting that first ASI has to vacate, and only then will they sign a deal with Phoenix. Why do they care? Let’s sign a deal with Phoenix and let’s move forward. I’m finding the Port Authority’s position baffling.”

Yassky also noted the EDC’s swift work in acquiring piers 11 and 12 for cruise ship operations last December.

“When EDC wants something to happen, like cruise ships, they get initiative here and make it happen,” Yassky said, adding, “I wish they were using that kind of initiative here.”

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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