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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
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.
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