Red Hook Piers Fight Unites Former Foes (Updated)

In Red Hook, neighbors who once squared off over developments like the Brooklyn Ikea and the Fairway supermarket have suddenly allied to fight a city plan to develop two waterfront piers. “In this neighborhood, there have been so many fights with one side against the other, but on this issue, there’s so much consensus,” said longtime Red Hook resident Adam Armstrong.

At issue is the city Economic Development Corporation’s plan to lease the majority of Pier 11 to the beer distributor Phoenix Beverage, which is also leasing Piers 7 through 10 in a separate deal. That deal allows Phoenix to relocate from its current home in Long Island City.  

But residents like Mr. Armstrong had hoped the city would endorse an alternative plan floated by Tom Fox, president of New York Water Taxi.  Mr. Fox’s plan calls for a $100 million dollar Brooklyn Maritime Center, complete with full-service shipyard, marina, docks and a restaurant to be built at Piers 11 and 12, which together form a protected pool known as the Atlantic Basin.

In January, representatives from EDC accepted Mr. Armstrong’s invitation to meet with local residents at his home to discuss the community’s concern. At the time, Phoenix had yet to reach a deal for Pier 7, and EDC claimed the beer distributor needed Pier 11 to adequately house its operation or the city risked losing Phoenix, and its 500 employees, to New Jersey. 

In February, Phoenix got Pier 7. With that deal in place, Mr. Armstrong and others assumed that the city would put Phoenix on Piers 7 through 10, and allow Mr. Fox to develop Piers 11 and 12. Instead, the EDC announced it would also lease part of Pier 11 to Phoenix, who would share the pier with the maritime non-profit Portside New York.

“The goal posts seem to shift,” Mr. Armstrong said. “We address one concern and then it kind of changes.” 

Without the Water Taxi development, many residents feel Phoenix will do little to bring spending money or jobs to Red Hook businesses. “The city’s economic development team have chosen as their anchor tenant a tenant that’s going to sink the economic future of the surrounding community,” said Declan Walsh a Red Hook resident and property owner. Mr. Walsh does not oppose Phoenix coming to piers 7 through 10, but he believes the Red Hook waterfront should be used to benefit the local community. “It’s squandering a community and a city asset,” he said.

At a contentious meeting last month, EDC said Phoenix is “an ideal tenant” for the waterfront and, when pressed by a nearly unanimous crowd of about 100 locals, expressed doubts about the efficacy of Mr. Fox’s plan. A representative for Phoenix told the crowd that the beer distributor was happy to get as much space as it could along the piers. (Phoenix did not return subsequent calls for comment.) EDC called the plan its “final proposal,” and because the piers are owned by the Port Authority, it does not have to undergo the usual public land-use review. (A statement from the EDC follows this story.)

That leaves the community wondering where to take its fight. Mr. Walsh says he’s not sure how to confront the city’s plan, but insists Red Hook residents will fight on, just as they have in the past. “We’re a small community but we’re viral,” he said. “We’ve been told that things are a fait accompli before.” 

Update: April 8 11:33 a.m.

The follow is a statement from EDC senior vice president Venetia Lannon: “We believe that Atlantic Basin presents an excellent opportunity to achieve the dual goals of revitalizing Brooklyn’s working waterfront and bringing residents and visitors back to the Red Hook waterfront. The combination of Phoenix Beverages and its 500-plus jobs and potential to grow additional jobs and bring more products and goods to New York by water, coupled with PortSide’s ability to offer, not only access to the waterfront, but also educational maritime-related programs and events, is a unique opportunity to fulfill the City’s vision for the area.”

Red Hook Piers Fight Unites Former Foes (Updated)