Officials, Businesses Relieved
By Paula Katinas
And Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
BROOKLYN — Local elected officials and business people, not to mention neighborhood residents worried about security, yesterday hailed a new agreement reached between the Port Authority and the U.S. Customs Service that will allow inspections of cargo from ships arriving in the U.S. to continue at the Red Hook Container Terminal.
The U.S. Customs Service had strongly been considering moving its inspections apparatus to a container terminal in New Jersey. The move would have meant that cargo arriving from overseas to the Red Hook Terminal would have had to be trucked from Red Hook through South Brooklyn, and over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, through Staten Island, and on to New Jersey.
The container terminal is currently operated by Phoenix Beverages and handles about 15 percent of all beer heading into the region, as well as other items such as bananas. Freight would have been trucked from Red Hook to a U.S. Customs inspection station in Staten Island or New Jersey and back, adding extra costs to the operation.
“It would have been a nightmare,” Congressman Michael Grimm (R-Bay Ridge/Staten Island) said in a phone interview yesterday afternoon. “We already have enough traffic congestion in our community. And the security issues jumped right off the page,” he said.
Grimm was referring to the possibility of uninspected, and possibly dangerous, cargo being transported through the streets of Red Hook, Sunset Park and Bay Ridge, then onto a bridge that is used by hundreds of thousands of vehicles a day. The concern that terrorists would sneak a bomb into cargo that would have been able to explode on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge was a very real threat, local officials said.
On the subject of economic impact, Grimm said, “Moving the inspections out of Red Hook would have threatened the viability of that terminal. If you’re a business that does shipping, you don’t want to have to pay extra to truck the cargo from Brooklyn to New Jersey to get it inspected. Red Hook would have lost business. Lost business means lost jobs.”
Likewise, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-Brooklyn/ Manhattan), a strong advocate for the container port, was quoted by the New York Times last year as saying, “It’s a tremendous incentive for these shipping companies to say, ‘Why bother with Red Hook?’ It’s imperative to the economy that we have a port on both sides of the river.”
Yesterday, Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye, in a statement, said, “We applaud the efforts of our Congressional delegation to help address this issue with CBP [U.S. Customs and Border Protection]. We thank CBP for its commitment to Red Hook and for listening to us and the Congressional delegation and doing the right thing for the region’s port.”
The agreement calls for U.S. Customs inspections to continue at the Red Hook facility for the next five years.
“Customs doesn’t usually give a five-year guarantee, but the Red Hook Terminal owner agreed to spend money to upgrade the facility. The Port Authority also agreed to put in some money. I think Customs was impressed by that,” Grimm said.
“I think this is a win-win for our community,” Grimm said.
Red Hook currently handles $3.8 billion in total retail value commodities, according to the Port Authority. The container terminal’s primary imports, as mentioned above, are produce products and high-end beverages. Its primary exports are household goods, foodstuffs and medical equipment.