Great TankerTours day! We were honored to receive a Congressional Record from Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez. Councilman Carlos Menchaca spoke. Visitors included some 150 happy people and one dog.Read More
PortSide blogs about our WaterStories programs, urban waterways issues, the BLUEspace, development plans for the NYC waterfront, our ship MARY A. WHALEN and other historic vessels, boats and ships of all sizes.
2015: the search is over. The future is now.
2015 was a year of major milestones and growth. See, read and feel it below.
The pivot point was the exhilarating move on May 29 in the video at right.
Our new site strengthens our ability to fulfill the PortSide vision of combining the working waterfront, public access and community development.
Please donate now and support our momentum!
The public access at our new home enables us to grow our educational programs. We hopped on it right away with outreach such as our Open House for Educators Week and researching new curricula. We gained new partners in the World Monuments Fund, the Williamsburgh HS of Architecture and Design (WHSAD), and Behind the Book. We had three summer interns from WHSAD and two college interns from Spain. We created a curriculum for simple machines aboard the MARY A. WHALEN and taught Hurricane Sandy & resiliency to elementary school kids. For adult job training, we furthered our relationship with the painters' union District Council 9.
WaterStories cultural programs
We secured $20,000 in funding from Councilman Carlos Menchaca to support our Red Hook WaterStories cultural tourism, placemaking and resiliency project. We were invited to join a historic ship flotilla that celebrated Cunard's 175th anniversary and got community members in the parade via our partner, the historic tug CORNELL. We curated and ran a great POW! weekend with TankerTours, TankerTime and gifted flamenco jazz musicians who have offered to make this an annual event. We produced a distinctive multimedia history night with Norwegian Red Hook WaterStories with bluegrass musicians from Norway, history speakers, and vintage video. Out shipcat Chiclet has become an attraction, with a growing fan club of regulars who come by to see her.
Volunteers repainted three cabins! Thank you, volunteers! Three summer interns from WHSAD did enormous work restoring the teak rail around the wheelhouse. The painters' union District Council 9 will repaint the exterior as a training excercise with paint donated by International Paint. DC9 scoped out the job, did some prep work, and laid plans for painting in 2016.
History: research, acquisitions & programs
History runs through so many of our programs: all events on the ship, programs such as our Norwegian Red Hook WaterStories night, info content we share on our Facebook and Twitter, our blogposts such the one about the important sale of slave ERIE ship in Atlantic Basin which marked an important step in the end of slavery in the USA. In 2015, we added considerably to Mary A. Whalen history: more former crew members found us (thanks to our new home): Engineer Bill Siebert who works on a Vane tug and retired, 86-year old, former relief captain Thomas J. Smith. Captain Smith donated his maritime papers to us, and we have taped hours of interviews with him. A big boost in the history department was the visit by Scott Gellatly and his wife Pat. They ran a waterborne fuel transportation company years ago and almost bought the MARY. The Gellatlys donated photos, recorded hours of interview and brought along retired engineer Bryan Sinram, another trove of history, who had worked for Eklof, the company that ran the MARY WHALEN for years. Walter Barschow donated the folk painting of the MARY aground in the slide show above and gave us leads on Red Hook WaterStories about his family that ran a scrap yard for decades, founded by his German immigrant grandmother. Karen Dyrland and John Weaver donated another large cache of photos, letters and documents from Alf Dyrland, Captain of the MARY from 1958-1978. And, our home, the historic tanker MARY A. WHALEN turned 77!
PortSide continued to inspire filmmakers, painters and multi-media artists. Most find us because they can now see us. The MARY A. WHALEN is visible from our new friends and partners Pioneer Works which leads to a steady stream of artists coming to brainstorm, photograph, get ideas, one even collects salt water for a printing project. We gave the title to the documentary film BLUESPACE and appeared in it. We invited painter Jim Ebersole to memorialize our final week in the Red Hook Containerport.
This important work does not generate inspiring, cuddly or sexy photos. It involves a slew of emails and hundreds of conversations that advance our vision for bringing change to NYC's waterfront. Some highlights: Our President Carolina Salguero was appointed to the Sunset Park Task Force whose first task was to advise the EDC on creating an RFP for SBMT. How's that for alphabet soup! The Task Force continues to meet to shape the Sunset Park waterfront and industrial waterfront district. PortSide provided info and advice on the siting of a Citywide ferry stop in Red Hook. We are engaged with the ongoing work of Red Hook's NY Rising committee. We had a photogenic policy gig by being a stop on Alex Washburn's OHNY Resiliency bike tour.
Capacity Building - great progress undergirds all the above!
Getting our new home in Atlantic Basin, has provided PortSide NewYork with much needed stability and allowed us to turn energies to growing PortSide's capacity. We grew the team with 2 board members and 4 advisory board members. We completed the long slog of paperwork of a FEMA Sandy Alternate Project application, along with other important funding applications. We were awarded $20,000 by Councilman Carlos Menchaca to support our Red Hook WaterStories project. In Late October, PortSide launched a year-long growth campaign #GetOnBoard. In December, we were awarded a competitive Regional Economic Development Council grant of $49,500 via the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. We scored new major sponsors in the Weather Channel and International Paint. There is strong growth in the number of entities reaching out to get involved: we have heard from college community service programs, schools, teachers and individuals.
Please donate now and support our momentum!
Starting in January 2015, the subject of the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal (SBMT) on the Sunset Park waterfront has prompted a lot of consternation - and confusion. The media coverage added more confusion than clarity with stories that were short on information and long on political speculation.
The media muddle
New York City is the media capital of the nation, and it is also a city where none of the major media, as far as we can tell, has a waterfront reporter.
The reporting on waterfront issues shows signs of that lack, notably in the case of SBMT. We try to fill some gaps in the story below. The major media spent little time exploring why the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) sought a long term lease from the NYC Department of Small Business Services (SBS) nor illuminated what the relationship is between those two sectors of New York City's own government vis a vis the waterfront. PortSide has been looking into that and will report back in the future. For now, below, is what we understand to be the essence of the 2015 SBMT story thus far:
The Real Deal in Question
The New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) sought a long term lease from the NYC Department of Small Business Services (SBS). This is the "Master Lease" often referred to, whereby control over the site was moving between one part of City government to another. "Master Lease" here does NOT refer to the EDC's leasing the site to an operator (a private-sector business) in this go-round. A prior lease was made with the Axis Group that was to run car importing on site, but Axis went bankrupt. Their webpage for SBMT was still live as of this May 20, 2015 here.
Menchaca did not approve on round one because he felt that SBMT should not be planned singly, that its development should be considered along with other major developments in the area (such as Industry City) and that the multiple EDC sites in Sunset Park (which all tolled amount to an area as large as many neighborhoods) should be considered as a collective, and that the SBMT development should be planned to benefit the adjoining community in some fashion, and that a mechanism or new governing entity for ensuring that should be created. The latter concern was because, at some sites, the EDC's metric for success has been rent/revenue earned directly by the agency, an economic benefit which does not necessarily advantage the host community of the EDC site. Menchaca also felt that the EDC had some unfulfilled commitments in the 38th District and said he would withhold approval of an SBMT deal until those commitments were met. A home for PortSide NewYork was one of the commitments that Menchaca sought and secured.
The resulting agreement between Menchaca and the EDC is memorialized in a Letter of Intent (LOI). Thefinalizing of this LOI is what greenlighted the City Council to have another hearing on the SBMT matter, following up on the December hearing, the first.
A City Council hearing regarding SBMT was held on Tuesday, May 19, 2015. This was a hearing of the Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting, and Maritime Uses. To watch the video, look for the link VIDEO on that page. The LOI between Menchaca and the EDC figured largely in the discussion. Our President Carolina Salguero testified for PortSide NewYork. We outline our understanding of the contents of the LOI in the Appendix at the end of our testimony. We copy our testimony in full below, or you download it as a PDF here.
The five council members present voted to approve the Master Lease between EDC and SBS. Other councilmembers were present earlier in the hearing, some commented, some did not. This will be voted on by the entire City Council at the Stated Meeting scheduled for May 27.
PortSide NewYork testimony about SBMT
Testimony of Carolina Salguero
President, PortSide NewYork
May 19, 2015
Testimony to New York City Council
Re: NYC Council Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses
LU 0224-2015, proposed maritime lease between the New York City Department of Small Business Services (SBS) and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) for South Brooklyn Marine Terminal (SBMT)
PortSide NewYork understands that the EDC-SBS lease discussion led Councilman Carlos Menchaca to work out a Letter of Intent (LOI) with the EDC that includes many terms beyond the SBS-EDC lease and the SBMT site itself. We summarize our understanding of that LOI in Appendix A, and our comments below reflect that understanding.
We commend all parties who participated in the creation of the LOI: Councilman Carlos Menchaca for his vision, steadfastness and willingness to bring multiple parties to the table of future collaboration; and the EDC for listening, for evolving, and for making a strong staff commitment to the Sunset Park waterfront in their new restructuring. The Sunset Park waterfront is a regional asset that merits such focus. We applaud the EDC’s commitment to rethink the way it operates in communities where it has assets.
PortSide NewYork’s Credentials
PortSide NewYork is a living lab for better urban waterways. PortSide NewYork works to activate NYC’s waterfront, specifically the BLUEspace, the water part of it. PortSide shows how to combine the working waterfront, public access and community development. We bring the communities afloat (maritime) and ashore closer together for the benefit of both. We think it is key to state that the word “community” also applies to maritime, a constituency that can only be at the waterfront, not just the residential community ashore. PortSide’s Sandy recovery work won us an award from the White House and honors from the New York State Senate.
New template for waterfront management, development and community relations
The LOI is an exciting road map for the future of Sunset Park and of Brooklyn, and it may prove an example for The City.
We applaud its commitment to holistic planning that will consider the whole suite of EDC sites in Sunset Park and that will integrate developments inside a site fence with what is outside it.
PortSide applauds the development of a task force to influence the RFP for the SBMT site. We are excited that members of the shoreside community will be joined by maritime experts in this task force to help foster the creation of an RFP that reflects maritime market realities.
NYC’s piers have lain fallow for a long time while the maritime industry, which includes non-profits like ours with historic ships, has strained to grow. All sectors of the maritime industry have been seeking space. The brownwater sector of tugs and barges; charter, excursion and diner boats; ferries and historic ships seeks space. The Sunset Park waterfront has also attracted strong interest from the bluewater sector, ocean-going vessels that import and export. In fact, there have been two offers to build a containerport in Sunset Park since 2001: Hanjin, one of the world’s largest shipping companies, offered to build such a port if they could run it, and a European concern proposed an automated port.
Elements of this LOI reflect an exciting return to the spirit of Vision 2020, NYC’s comprehensive waterfront plan, created in 2010, which embraced the waterways and called for activating them for multiple stakeholders.
Maritime activation improves resiliency
The spirit of Vision 2020 was at risk of being drowned by Superstorm Sandy which turned water into a frightening force. The resulting flood of federal dollars for resiliency grew a defense-against-water mentality. Fortunately, there is a corrective as the resiliency planning conversation turns towards economic resiliency, and that conversation should foster activation of the waterfront for water-dependant and water-related uses which will grow economic, educational and cultural activity.
Given the 9/11 waterborne evacuation of Manhattan (350,000-500,000 people) and the one during the 2003 blackout, plus the 2012 lessons of Sandy, planners should bear in mind that the most resilient pier is one that can host many uses, particularly boats, and that supports various emergency functions of evacuation and supply by water. Activating SBMT is a plus in this regard.
Activate SBMT to work with other major marine & marine rail developments
The Port Authority is making a large investment in the Cross Harbor Project which has rail float bridges near SBMT and a rail line running to SBMT. SBMT is a regional marine rail transportation asset that should be developed with Cross Harbor in mind.
Indirect economic benefits of waterfront activation
We applaud the evolution in the EDC’s metric for success. PortSide has long advocated that the maritime industry and waterfront activation can offer substantial indirect benefits to the adjoining inland community. The LOI is a recipe for achieving such goals thanks to commitments to workforce development, the creation of a RFP task force, the installation of better fendering for the north side of the Brooklyn Army Terminal (BAT) Pier 4 which will allow more maritime activity on site, the aforementioned holistic planning, and funds from the SBMT lease to support local programming.
PortSide NewYork’s role going forward
PortSide looks forward to participating in the promises manifest in the LOI.
• One of the LOI terms is a home for PortSide on Pier 11, Atlantic Basin in Red Hook with a three year contract. We thank Councilman Carlos Menchaca for his role in getting us our first real estate stability after a ten-year search for a home.
• We would like to return to BAT Pier 4 and help activate the site for programming.
• PortSide would welcome an opportunity to join the RFP Task Force.
• PortSide has ways to grow indirect benefits of maritime activity including ways to make the maritime industry a neighborhood attraction and an educational amenity via PortSide’s “learn our infrastructure” ethos.
• PortSide can share our Waterfront Policy Recommendations which further explains the ecosystem of the maritime industry and its needs.
Appendix A - summary of the loi
PortSide NewYork understands the SBMT LOI to include the following:
- 39-year Master Lease between SBS and EDC.
- The EDC commits to restructuring with a new Executive Vice President position focused on Sunset Park assets, coordinating within the EDC and pulling from all departments and operating from an office in Sunset Park. The department will consider the effect of all EDC assets in Sunset Park; those are Brooklyn Army Terminal which includes BAT Pier 4, SBMT, Bush Terminal (the industrial park), the Meat Market and Bush Terminal Park.
- A mechanism to involve the landside community and maritime experts in the creation of a Sunset Park Waterfront Planning and Jobs Task Force that will shape the structure of the RFP to find an operator for SBMT.
- A customized workforce development program in Sunset Park created in partnership with local community organizations to connect residents to jobs created through activation of SBMT.
- Commitment from the City to provide full funding for the design and construction of a southern entrance at Bush Terminal Piers Park
- Amenities at BAT Pier 4 consistent with the 197a plan
- Installation of fendering on the north side of BAT Pier 4 which will allow for more docking of vessels on site
- A planning process to understand the scope and costs of building an eco-pier and children’s playground at Bush Terminal Park
- Space for the docking of PortSide NewYork on Pier 11 in Atlantic Basin, Red Hook.
- Creation of a dedicated fund, from the leases on South Brooklyn Marine Terminal, to support local programming
Red Hook, Brooklyn has a small jewel with a big view in the Louis J. Valentino Park and Pier. The place inspired an August uproar due to unannounced renovation project by the Parks Department.
To set the scene, this park is heavily used by old-timers and newbies, dog walkers, fishermen, sunbathers, kids, seniors, an occasional croquet game, the outdoor movie series Red Hook Flicks and the Red Hook Boaters who offer free kayaking and conduct beach clean ups.
The use of the park has ramped up due to a great food and activity scene which sprang up post hurricane Sandy on the Van Dyke Street end on the parks southeast side with the Steve's Key Lime Pie and Hometown BBQ setting up outdoor eating areas. Brooklyn Motor Works is running a cool motorcycle biz next door, and there is a forge across the street at She-Weld and Pier 44 Antiques auction house (they also sell retail) next to that. In short, a Red Hook scene.
So.... not surprisingly, when fences went up around Valentino Park recently without any prior notice from the Parks department, there was community concern - concerns heightened by the fact that Red Hook's Coffey Park was shut down for renovations without notice this year, and Valentino Park underwent a similar surprise lockdown for renovations in 2005.
Last night, Councilman Carlos Menchaca convened and ran a great meeting with the Parks Department and the community, and THE COMMUNITY WAS HEARD
Hats off to Carlos Menchaca for organizing this meeting and running it so well. Thank you, Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Jeffrey for coming out, for apologizing for lack of notice to the community about the project, for committing to do better and change the process, and for being willing to take input on some design issues regarding proposed repair near a bulkhead.
The community and CM Carlos Menchaca conveyed that there needs to be more communication from Parks in the future and more opportunity for community input. People expressed concerns about process and design. Great comments by Victoria Hagman, Dan Daniel Wiley, Lillie Marshall, Danella Johnson, Tony Schloss, and many others.
In sum, the Parks work plan is the following
- This is, in Parks' terms, a small $118,000 project that should be completed within a month.
- Most of the park will stay open during the work.
- Access to the pier and the beach will remain open during the work.
- Work needs to finish well before winter weather because asphalt plants close when temperatures drop below 45 degrees.
The work is occurring because Parks wanted to fix the broken water fountain over near Coffey Street and in order to make that project large enough for a capital project, they bundled that work with some other repairs, - all of this happening because they have some discretionary money in the budget.
Those "other repairs" are fixing the walkways parallel to the water (NOT the central walkway to the pier) through the park in the following ways: The smaller walks near the water are "aggregate" (gravel in plain English) bounded by low steel rails; the problem with this design is that the aggregate has "migrated" (or spread in plain English) far from the walkways. This means that the walkways are now lower than the steel rails, and those rails are now a tripping hazard.
Another walkway issue is the 8-9" step from walkway up to the pier on the SE (or Steve's Key Lime Pie) side of the pier walkway, and that's tough on seniors and the disabled and a trip-n-fall hazard to all us distracted folks.
Short term band aid vs long term resiliency
Lastly, and this is were the big focus and passion of the discussion about the renovation design centered, was how and why Parks proposed to deal with a zone on that same SE side of the pier where salt water comes over the bulkhead, puddles, and then drains back out to sea - in the process, killing vegetation and taking the soil with it, eg leading to a situation that at some point will create sinkholes and a collapsed bulkhead.
The difference of opinion here was that Parks wanted to do a quick repair to prevent a big future job and the hazard of sinkholes by raising the land so that it was level with the bulkhead and putting an asphalt cap (with sand and cement below) over PART of the area there so that water would drain from the asphalt back to sea.
Parks could have brought a better rendering showing what would become asphalt and what would be planting in this new domed better-drained hump of park - there was a lot of confusion about what was staying green and not.
Many community members did not want more asphalt in the park. Victoria Hagman suggested that Parks seek input on more green and resilient design practices, citing Gita Nandan as one possible contributor. Dan Wiley from Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez office mentioned that the $200MM integrated flood protection plan coming to Red Hook might replace or better what Parks is proposing. (In the after-meeting chatter, some questioned whether the $200MM plan would be built long after that spot has a major sinkhole.)
Parks pointed out that they don't have budget now to re-design or use more costly materials.
Landscape architects vs BLUEspace architects
As waterfront advocates, we want to interject, supporting what Commissioner Jeffrey admitted last night, that this salt-spray, sinkhole-prone section of the park was NOT well designed from the outset. (PS, its surface treatment of plantings etc was installed during the 2005 renovation.)
Somewhere in our files is a photo of salt spray heavily dousing newly planted "beach roses" which soon died in that spot.
In our opinion, it was typical of how NYC waterfront park design is dominated by landscape architects and not water people. Where are the BLUEspace architects? Piers designed for boats?
Breaking down the silos
PortSide Director Carolina Salguero picked up on Dan Wiley's comment about NY Rising resiliency work. She was on the NY Rising committee, and PortSide has done a lot of recovery and resiliency planning work since Hurricane Sandy. Salguero asked if the collapsed water line under Coffey Street to the drinking fountain was related to the frequent HUGE puddle that sits on the west end of Coffey Street after a rain.
Storm drain problems were a big focus of the NY Rising effort. Parks could not answer that on the spot, and said they would ask their engineer for info.
At PortSide, we always try and break down silos and develop cross talk, so the hope with this question is that a Parks project could lead to info that would inform a DEP project the Red Hook NY Rising committee hopes to see. Sounds simple, but NYC agency cross-talk and info-share is harder than one would expect.
As design-by-community could not solve the "how to cap and drain the proposed dome," it was agreed that the community would do some homework and get ideas to Parks.
Everyone needs to bear in mind that there is not a lot of budget here, so AFFORDABLE concepts need to be submitted. As to whether or how design changes could be made due to city process on how to bid and let a job, over to Carlos and Parks for answer.
Est4te Four, who is developing all the property across Coffey Street from Valentino, will want the Coffey Street Lake resolved, so Red Hook may see a solution due to private development.
NEXT ISSUE for Valentino Park" Parks proposal to install a "comfort station" eg bathrooms over by the Coffey Street side near Ferris. Come to a Brooklyn Community Board 6 meeting on Wed 9/17 6:30pm at the Miccio Center for discussion of that (and Coffey Park) as well as the Columbus Day weekend concert on Pier 9 in the Red Hook Container Term
Red Hook got walloped by Sandy on 10/29/12, but the spirit that was most visible at the one-year anniversary, the Sandyversary, was moxie and mirth. Cheeky illustrations popped up in a few places.
An underground parade, the Barnacle Parade, was organized on short notice. Satirical costumes ridiculed the insurance industry, referred to blown out transformers, jerry jugs, diesel oil spills, and Gowanus Canal overflow. A float depicting a generator loomed over it all. A huge, blue tarp, shaken by a dozen people, was a lo-fi illustration of Sandy’s flood waters.
RHI - Sandy One Year Acknowledgement Anniversary Dinner
We were pretty busy with the parade and our role in the Light up the Shore, so we missed most of Red Hook Initiative's event. If anyone wants to send photos and copy our way, we'll post them! The proceedings concluded with a visit by Bill de Blasio, now Mayor of New York City, who had a lot of media in tow.
Coffey Park candlelight vigil
A vigil organized by Monica Byrne, Rachel Forsyth, Martha Bowers and others started near 7pm. A pleasant twenty minutes or so of chatting and candle-lighting occurred while the crowd gathered, some of them from RHI's event above. Reginald Flowers asked everyone to form a circle ("this is a Red Hook circle," someone quipped looking at our misshapen round in the park) and to have a moment of silence. The silence ended when the Hungry March Band, invited by PortSide NewYork with the help of Dan Wiley of Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez office, struck up a tune and stepped out to head towards IKEA.
Light Up the Shore
PortSide NewYork was the Red Hook organizer for Light up the Shore, a harborwide event including NY & NJ, where people lined up with candles and flashlights at 7:45pm, the hour the waters started hitting our city. On this, we coordinated with The Brooklyn Long Term Recovery Group, who was helping to arrange gathering spots all over Brooklyn.
The Hungry March band led a group of about two hundred people, New Orleans style, towards the waterfront with teens on skateboards and bikes dancing and popping wheel out in the front. As the throng turned on to Van Brunt Street at Pioneer, a big cheer erupted from the rump remains of the Barnacle Parade partying in front of Bait & Tackle.
IKEA graciously invited the community to come to their waterfront and donated 200 candles, hot Glogg (a Swedish beverage that tastes a lot better than it sounds!) and cookies. Fairway donated hot cider and cookies. Father Claudio Antecini of Visitation Church spoke followed by Carlos Menchaca, now our Councilman. Carolina Salguero of PortSide said "there is a request for group hug, hug someone you know and some one you don't," and after a bout of hugging and more chatting, the crowd filtered away into the night.
Red Hook Volunteer
The dynamic duo of Monica and Leisah hosted a party at their new venue Atelier Roquette, to honor the recovery work of the Red Hook Volunteers and help them raise money. Over 50 attended what felt like the relaxed after party for a day of Sandyversary events, with some people shuttling back and forth between the Bait & Tackle party and the Volunteers. The Mother Earth Band (made wholly or mostly of Volunteers) played. Red Hook is truly blessed to have had this contingent of young people make their way to NYC after the storm and find Red Hook and stay to help us out. Three cheers to the Red Hook Volunteers!