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City must take piers, boss says - Port Authority backs plan for EDC to transform docks

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To maintain and bolster the economic vitality of the borough, a controversial plan to transfer ownership of Red Hook’s Piers 7-12 to the city must proceed, the top boss of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said this week. “We’ve concluded that the best course to create jobs and serve the region’s transportation needs is to complete the transfer of these piers to the City of New York,” Port Authority Executive Director Anthony Shorris said Wednesday. The city’s Economic Development Corporation is heading the plan, which it hopes will transform the waterfront into an accessible, tourist friendly, job-generating destination. The project could include amenities like offices, restaurants, shops, a hotel, another passenger cruise ship terminal, and artist studios. The City Council and mayor could approve of the project this summer, which would trigger the city acquisition of the 1.1-mile, 120-acre site from the Port Authority, the landlord. The container port on the property, American Stevedoring, faces eviction once its lease expires at the end of March. The company, which occupies Piers 7-10, has enjoyed strong support from the area’s elected officials. Shorris continued, “To begin the process of transferring the piers, the Port Authority has executed a Memorandum of Under-standing (MOU) with the city, which signals our intention to work towards an orderly transfer of the piers in accord with the action by our Board of Commissioners in December of 2005.” “The Port Authority pledged to review closely the issue of transferring Piers 7-12 to ensure that the action we take will allow the piers to remain active, job-generating facilities that support the economic growth of the city and the port itself,” Shorris said. “We anticipate that the final transfer will occur later this year. We are confident that our investments in Staten Island’s rapidly growing Howland Hook port will allow New York City facilities to contribute to our region remaining the leading East Coast destination for international shippers,” he added. Shorris’ comments could be a serious blow to those who only recently pointed to statements he made as a signal of the potential demise of the city’s plan. Tim Bradley, a spokesperson for American Stevedoring, said the container port has successfully navigated troubled waters in the past, “and we’ll continue to do so. “The MOU announcement is actually an old decision—not the Spitzer Administration decision. It was signed last year. The governor and Port Authority commissioners still have to weigh in, and the City Council has to approve any proposal from the city.” “There are more innings left in this,” he said. “ASI is going to continue to defend our 600-plus workforce and maintain our great rapport with shippers from around the world. We’re confident that in the final analysis, Governor Spitzer and the City Council will support the container terminal’s vibrant activity—it generates billions of dollars for New York every year and employs 750 people with good-paying jobs. If you consider the first cruise terminal cost $56 million and created just 10-full time jobs, the numbers don’t compare.” Before his comments this week comments, Shorris told the New York Observer blog, The Real Estate, that the agency is “having conversations and [is] doing a lot of looking at what should happen at each of the piers.” “The thing that is most important is to make sure that they remain active, job generating, supporting the economic growth of the city and the port. That is a complicated set of decisions that we are in discussions that I am just catching up on,” Shorris said at the time. Officials like Council-member Michael Nelson, Rep. Nydia Velazquez, Rep. Jerrold Nadler and Councilmember David Yassky applauded those comments. Nadler said at the time, “Tony Shorris’s comments clearly underscore the Spitzer administration’s commitment to a Port Authority driven by thoughtful transportation policy rather than politics.” This week, Nadler said he remains concerned about the proposed transfer. “The city’s plan would effectively deprive New York of a major container operation, and ultimately cost the city millions of dollars in revenues and tens of thousands of jobs; and create a massive increase in truck traffic and a major security vulnerability,” Nadler said. “Ultimately, however, final transfer cannot move ahead without the support of Governor Spitzer and a final vote of the Port Authority commissioners, neither of which has yet to occur. And, most importantly, the city’s ill-conceived proposed plan requires City Council approval,” the federal lawmaker said.

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