A Port Grows in Brooklyn

The city opens a $56 million cruise terminal

By: Jonathan Siskin

History was made on the morning of Saturday, April 15, when the world’s largest cruise vessel, Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2, made its maiden call at the nation’s newest cruise ship terminal in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood.

Festooned with blue and white balloons and resounding with the sounds of bagpipes, the gleaming 182,000-square-foot glass-enclosed facility welcomed the first group of what will soon become a tide of arrivals and departures, as more than one million cruise passengers will pass through the terminal every year. Getting the terminal ready to accommodate the QM2 and other mammoth 21st-century mega-ships is the culmination of a two-year construction project both on the waterfront and in the waters offshore, as the channel approaching the port had to be dredged and deepened with moorings reinforced.

On hand to welcome the ship was a group of city dignitaries led by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who enthusiastically hailed the arrival of the QM2 and exchanged gifts with Cunard president, Carol Marlow.

In his remarks, the mayor noted that “investing in industries poised for growth is one of the best ways for us to diversify the city’s economy, and the investments we’re making in New York’s booming cruise sector are the latest example.”

In April 2004, the Bloomberg administration reached a historic agreement with Carnival Corporation, stipulating that Carnival will support the city’s investment in cruise facilities in Brooklyn and Manhattan through port charges in exchange for berthing rights. Still expanding, New York City is now the third-largest cruise market in the U.S.

Some 40 ships will call here during the remainder of 2006. And according to predictions, the economic impact of the cruise industry will increase from $600 million annually in 2004 to more than $900 million in 2012.

Besides being the home port of the QM2 for 11 trans-Atlantic crossings, the new terminal will be a port of call on the annual round-the-world cruise of the QE2. Red Hook will also serve as home port for the Star Princess and the new Crown Princess, which will make its North American debut here in June. Cruises departing from the Brooklyn terminal will sail on itineraries to England, Canada, New England and the Caribbean.

Port of Call: Brooklyn

Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood boomed from the 1840s through the 1880s when it was the terminus for barges transporting huge quantities of Midwestern goods through the Erie Canal. Warehouses, refineries and granaries were built along the waterfront to process these goods, and the neighborhood was fully urbanized by the 1870s. Some of the brick homes constructed during that period predate the brownstones built farther inland.

While the boom eventually went bust and much of the neighborhood deteriorated, nowadays Red Hook is experiencing a revival as many artists have moved in, and galleries have sprung up along with new shops and restaurants. From the walkway along the waterfront, travelers have magnificent views of the Statue of Liberty and the New York harbor. Meanwhile, the completion of the cruise terminal has spurred plans for the construction of other new buildings, including an IKEA store and a Fairway market.

Spokespeople for NYC & Company, the city’s tourism agency, have said that they intend to mitigate increased traffic around the port through an emphasis on taxis and black-car limos, and by utilizing a traffic-flow plan to streamline cars on and off the nearby Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

In addition, NYC & Company plans to distribute a new-and-improved version of its VIP Pass for cruise passengers, which offers discounts at many local attractions and businesses.