Despite a presentation from Port Authority (PANYNJ) representatives at its Wednesday meeting, Community Board 5 members remained steadfast in supporting water transportation over new rail infrastructure as part of the proposed Cross Harbor Freight Program.
Mark Hoffer, director of New Port Initiatives for PANYNJ, spoke to attendees at Christ the King Regional High School on the proposed options set forth by the Cross Harbor Freight Program to relieve the congestion and the region’s dependence on freight trucks.
“We’re looking to improve the movement of goods in the greater New York/New Jersey region by enhancing, improving the transportation of freight across New York Harbor,” Hoffer explained.
The PANYNJ released its Tier I Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) last November and has presented 10 options, with an 11th “no build” option. Of the 10 current options, five would be waterborne options and five would be rail tunnel alternatives. The “no build” option would only continue building projects that are already in the pipeline to be constructed, nothing new would be added.
The program is currently in the public hearing and comment stage and PANYNJ is seeking the public’s input.
“No decisions have been made to build anything,” Hoffer said. “It’s important, obviously, for us to hear from the public about how they feel, and which alternatives they think might be better than others or if there are options that you think we missed, what those might be.”
Board 5 members voiced their opinions on the proposed options of the Cross Harbor Freight Program during the meeting’s public forum.
Bob Holden, Board 5 Public Safety Committee chairperson, believes that creating an intermodal rail station in Maspeth would bring more truck traffic “in the heart of our neighborhoods in Queens.”
Several members of the board agreed with Holden’s opinion and feel that a rail option would negatively affect the communities, while one of the five waterborne options would better suit the area.
A representative for Assemblywoman Margaret Markey presented a statement by Markey on the Cross Harbor Freight Program.
“Community Board 5 already faces a severe impact from current operations on rail lines that pass through many of our communities,” according to Markey’s statement. “I will focus my formal DEIS comments on the heightened threat that we will face as this program proceeds. Our neighborhoods must not be unfairly forced to pay the price to achieve the laudable goal of reducing cross harbor truck freight traffic.”
Board 5 Chairperson Vincent Arcuri thought back to the days when freight was shipped through New York without all of today’s roadways and bridges.
“How did we do it without these bridges, without the thruways, without the expressways and why can’t we do it now?” he asked.
Hoffer answered Arcuri’s question by saying, “the world changed.”
“We’ve made some bad decisions in the past, the government made some bad decisions in the past,” Hoffer said. “We let a lot of our transportation infrastructure go to pieces and we fell in love with the internal combustion engine.”
All these factors and more have lead to the current situation of a “truck-centric” system. Hoffer assured those in attendance that PANYNJ are looking at waterborne options.
Following the presentation, the board adopted a resolution from its Transportation Services Committee to submit official comment in opposition to the Cross Harbor Freight Project. The resolution indicated the board believes “the current options of the Cross Harbor DEIS are inadequate for a variety of reasons.” The panel urged that waterborne alternatives be considered.
The public can submit official comment to the Port Authority by email at email@example.com through Friday, March 20.