The city has quietly abandoned its quest to build a maritime-themed tourist attraction on the site of Brooklyn’s last cargo port, paving the way for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to start negotiations with the very pier operators that they’ve been trying to evict for years.
This is a major waterfront defeat for the Bloomberg administration, which had waged a much-publicized campaign to develop four piers in Red Hook into a beer garden, hotel, maritime museum and cultural center, and upscale housing development.
The plan was sunk by months of political opposition — though city officials did not admit defeat last week.
“We decided that the Port Authority was in a better position to develop the Red Hook piers, while we concentrate on Sunset Park,” said Janel Patterson, a spokesperson for the city’s Economic Development Corporation, referring to the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal, a possible site for shipping.
Patterson wouldn’t elaborate on the city’s decision, but insiders say a riverfront shopping and entertainment zone, which would have evicted American Stevedoring, Inc. — the port operator — lost steam after the ballyhooed $56-million cruise ship terminal only created 14 full-time jobs last year, 356 fewer than promised.
“When the numbers on the cruise industry came in so terribly, a lot of the city’s credibility was lost,” said an elected official’s staffer who supports the port operator. “There was never a good rationale for why they would take a working maritime area and turn it into luxury housing or a beer garden.”
The number of longshoremen actually working on Piers 7–10, which stretch south from Atlantic Avenue into Red Hook, is contested. ASI says it has 623 full-time employees, but critics say the workforce is closer to 100.
Regardless of how many people work there, 21 elected officials, several receiving thousands of dollars in campaign donation’s from ASI executives and their families, backed the company in October, urging the Port Authority to renew ASI’s lease.
The political backing and the shortfall at the cruise terminal apparently paid off for ASI — it’s currently negotiating with the Port Authority for a 10-year lease.
An ASI spokesman was smug, now that the city is no longer nipping at the company’s heels.
“They saw a Gold Coast, a Sausalito on the Hudson, but the whole thing was a debacle,” Matt Yates told The Brooklyn Paper.