Brooklyn and Manhattan residents choking on air near cruise terminals: Stringer

The Queen Mary docked at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in 2008. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Jim Henderson)

Cruise ships docked at terminals in Brooklyn and Manhattan are making the local air unbreathable, according to City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

In a letter to city Economic Development Corporation President James Patchett released Monday, Stringer stated that idling ocean liners at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in Red Hook and the Manhattan Cruise Terminal in Hell’s Kitchen are pumping out tons of diesel waste into the air every year.

Stringer claimed that the 214 cruise ships docked and idled at both points last year. Just one cruise ship, idling for 24 hours, can emit as much diesel exhaust as 34,400 idling tractor-trailers, he noted.

The city’s fiscal watchdog urged Patchett in his letter to help develop “a comprehensive plan” for reducing cruise ship emissions and making the air in Hell’s Kitchen and Red Hook cleaner for nearby residents. Stringer pointed out that both communities have a poorer air quality than their respective boroughs and the city.

“While cruise ships bring hundreds of thousands of visitors to New York City’s ports each year, these same ships are also responsible for spewing toxic, asthma-inducing exhaust fumes into neighborhoods that are already burdened with some of the city’s poorest air quality,” Stringer said. “I stand with New Yorkers who live in Hell’s Kitchen and Red Hook who have had to suffer the impact of this suffocating, poisonous pollution for too long.”

The city comptroller urged Patchett to develop plans that include greater use of “shore plug-ins,” which allows ships to directly connect to the city power grid while docked — thereby eliminating the need for idling.

The Brooklyn Cruise Terminal has a shore power system already in place, at a cost of $21 million, but just one-third of the ships docked there utilize it, Stringer added. 

In a statement to amNewYork Metro, the EDC responded: “Addressing the environmental implications related to ships calling at both the Brooklyn and Manhattan Cruise Terminals is a priority for our organization. While we acknowledge that shore power is one way to reduce emissions, there are a number of additional fuel sources and techniques gaining popularity within the industry. We will soon be kicking off a planning study to examine the feasibility of fully implementing and expanding shore power connections at our terminals and look forward to sharing the results with the public.”