Pols: City needs to ‘cruise’ on green solution to pier pollution

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Toxic fumes from cruise ships continue to poison Red Hook because a two-year-old plan to make the smoke-belching tourist boats more environmentally friendly is stalled in a fight over a different kind of green.

As the massive Queen Mary 2 puffed out pollution at its Pier 12 dock on Monday morning, lawmakers again called upon the state and city to finally work out an agreement to build a $15-million power station to allow cruise ships to plug in to the mainland electrical grid — instead of relying on their diesel engines, which emit noxious fumes whenever the ships are in port.

“It is time for the cruise ship terminal to stop choking Brooklyn,” said state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D–Carroll Gardens), who organized the rally with Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope).

The sticking point appears to be over who will pay the hefty annual cost of going green.

Carnival Cruise Lines has agreed to retrofit its vessels to allow them to plug into the electrical grid, costing it $1-$2 million per ship, said spokeswoman Jackie Chase.

But the company — part of an industry that economic development officials say brings over $1 billion to the city each year — is not prepared to pay the entire electric bill; taxpayers will have to chip in, too.

But the city and the New York Power Authority, which provides electricity to utility companies such as Con Edison, haven’t determined who will subsidize the cruise ships’ switch from diesel to electric. Using electrical power is considerably more expensive — to the tune of an additional $1.2 million a year.

“While we’re confident we will reach a deal soon, this is a difficult fiscal climate and we’re negotiating to make sure that city taxpayers get a fair deal,” said Kyle Sklerov, a spokesman for the Economic Development Corporation, which runs the cruise ship terminal.

The good news is that the money is already set aside to build the electrical power system itself.

As the property owner, the Port Authority earmarked roughly $12 million to build a facility. The rest of the capital money is coming from a $3-million grant from the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Residents, some of whom gathered in symbolic gas masks near the corner of Pioneer and Imlay streets, said they can’t wait for the bureaucratic squabbling to end. “It’s hard to breathe some days in Red Hook,” said Pioneer Street resident Stephanie Batchelder, who wore a baby blue surgical mask, sunglasses, and an oversized Incredible Hulk fist, which she said represented her “justifiable rage.” As she spoke, the acrid stench of diesel was redolent in the frigid air.

It’s no wonder: the mammoth ships idle all day, emitting compounds linked to cancer, and respiratory illnesses, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Pioneer Street resident Adam Armstrong, who blogs about the Red Hook waterfront, said he doesn’t care who is to blame — he just wants the project to get done.

“Our kids are breathing in known carcinogens,” he said. “It seems real callous not to deal with this when there are real people suffering.”

Indeed, the Port Authority has conceded that residents living near the cruise ship terminal are in a danger zone.

Port Authority Executive Director Chris Ward told the Public Service Commission last January that the residents near the port face “increased health risks.”

And according to a federal study, sulfur dioxide and other pollutants produced by cruise ships damage lung tissue, causing reduce function, increased respiratory illness, and aggravated breathing problems.

Even so, the terminal, which opened with great fanfare in 2006 never required an environmental review because the pier was already active for cargo operations, and the cruise terminal was a conforming use under the zoning law.

Though not, apparently, under breathing law.

Updated 5:22 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

WW from Bay Ridge says:
Smoke Belching!

What a joke. This city incinerated garbage in apartment buildings less than 20 years ago. The city incinerated garbage at city dumps not that long ago. Buildings burned coal, and when the shipyards of Red Hook provided labor for the residents of Red Hook there was a lot more in the air.

Those poor little fragile flowers who are offended by smoke, that equals employmet and money should go find a pure mountain stream to live by and make their living off the land.
Jan. 4, 2011, 9:21 am
Sid from Boerum Hill says:
the Princess ships do not use high sulfur fuel. They use jet-x.
federal law mandates that the cruise ships stop using the high sulfur fuels in the next few years anyway.
there is more diesel and sulfur from NY City buses and trucks making deliveries than the cruise ships anyway and the neighnorhood wanted more of those instead of the piers being used for cruise ships...
Jan. 4, 2011, 2:13 pm
shallowpate from Columbia Waterfront says:
Hey WW, do you have a reading problem? Shore power means more jobs and less smoke. Someone's gotta build the infrastructure. This is a good deal for Red Hook.
Jan. 4, 2011, 6:13 pm
WW from Bay Ridge says:
Shore power is generated with what? Unicorn Farts?
Jan. 4, 2011, 7:01 pm
Joe from Gowanus says:

Power can be obtained directly from the East River / Buttermilk Channel via turbines. All we need if for the politicians to make this happen and it is a win-win for all! see:
Jan. 5, 2011, 2:56 pm
WW from Bay Ridge says:
Joe - Can Be and now are not the same thing.

And you can count on the law firm of Couldbe, Maybe and Might, to stand in the way of your genuine way of generating power. Politicians don't make marketable solutions happen - they stand in the way and regulate you out of viability.

Politicians don't do anything but spend money that is not theirs and expect you to be grateful to them.
Jan. 5, 2011, 10:02 pm

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