The Cross Harbor Freight Tunnel Project Unmasked - JuniperCivic.com
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Originally published in the December 2004 Juniper Berry Magazine

The Cross Harbor Freight Tunnel Project Unmasked

The previous issue of the Juniper Berry unmasked the

Cross Harbor Freight Tunnel Project for what it truly is ‒ a

blank check from the taxpayer to fund an unnecessary and

unwanted construction. The article written by Robert Holden highlighted the fact that the Railroad Peopledon't need nor want a cross-harbor freight tunnel.However, they absolutely need the present rail infrastructure upgraded to 21st Century standards. And, the article by Christopher Amato summarized the deficiencies in the DEIS for the Cross Harbor Project.

The idea of a cross-harbor freight tunnel (from Brooklyn to New Jersey) is an old idea with a long history that has never come to fruition. In 1893, the Pennsylvania Railroad considered a tunnel across the Narrows terminating at a

connection with the Long Island Railroad. In 1913, The Port of New York and the Pennsylvania Railroad considered a more northerly tunnel between Jersey City and South Brooklyn. In 1928, the Port Authority responding to the practicability of the Greenville‒Bay Ridge alignment for a freight tunnel, prepared a detailed report. In January 1935, Mayor LaGuardia commissioned the Port Authority to undertake a study for the construction of a freight rail tunnel across the harbor. Parsons, Brinckerkhoff, Quade, and Douglas initiated one further study in 1978 that included a possible connection between the Greenville Yards and the Bay Ridge Yards. Now, this history of crossharbor freight tunnel studies brings us to the present day study, which the cognoscenti consider a step back in time or an anachronism.

In November 1998, Hugh O'Neill Ph. D. and Mitchell L. Moss Ph.D. prepared a report titled Tunnel Vision. This report was an analysis of the proposed tunnel and deep-water port in Brooklyn. The study was sponsored by the Taub Urban Research Center at New York University's Robert F.Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. Although the complete report spans 48 pages, their conclusion is most interesting

and in alignment with my own observations.

The following is their conclusion:

New Yorkers often lament that their City has lost the capacity or perhaps the will to undertake ambitious, large ‒scale public works. The proposed Brooklyn hub port and rail tunnel clearly appeal to those who dream of once again launching the kind of bold, visionary projects that helped make New York great.

But Maritime and rail freight facilities are fundamentally about commerce. If they don't make sense commercially, they ultimately will not make sense at all, regardless of how visionary they seem.And what's worse, the unrealistic pursuit of these projects is already distracting public attention from less ambitious, but more realistic, incremental improvements that will have a much greater payoff for the long-term economic development of New York City.

The economic future of New York City does not lie in its past glory as a maritime center. Rather, New York City must look forward, not the proposed hub port and rail tunnel are

Industrial Era projects ill suited for the information economy of the 21st century. Rather, New York City must look forward, not backward. Furthermore, the proposed hub port and rail tunnel represent a genuine threat to many of the communities and industries currently located in southern Brooklyn.

Well, that report was prepared a mere five years ago – you should look at Brooklyn now! The downtown area is booming with corporate offices, high tech services, colleges, court building, etc. And, biotech is coming to central Brooklyn. Southern Brooklyn is experiencing rapid growth in large box stores, such as Home Depot, Costco and Lowes, while several large malls are scheduled to open soon. This recent development underscores the foresight in the O'Neill Moss report, Tunnel Vision, which points out the need to concentrate on less ambitious projects with a greater long- term payoff. Without question, the construction of the New

Kosciuszko Bridge is a project that should be put on the fast track because it will expedite the flow of traffic through Brooklyn and Queens while decreasing the pollution from truck traffic.

In addition to the New Kosciuszko Bridge, the Penny Bridge on Grand Avenue is vital for the flow of traffic from Brooklyn to Queens and should be rebuilt before the new MTA bus garage opens on Grand Avenue in Maspeth in 2007.

When you read through portions of the (DEIS), that is, the Draft Environmental Impact Study there are several suggestions that should have been implemented at least 10 years ago, such as the construction of a second span for the

Goethals Bridge. The one item that was not addressed – and I stand corrected – was the upgrading of the Belt Parkway from the Verrazzano Bridge to I-678 to federal standards

and include this portion of the Belt Parkway into the Interstate Highway System as an extension of I ‒278. This improvement would allow truck traffic to go directly to Kennedy Airport rather then traveling the BQE to the LIE to I-678 to Kennedy Airport. Truck traffic on the BQE would be further reduced if the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel allowed trucks into Manhattan.

At the October 28th Juniper Park Civic Association Town Meeting, the New York City Department of Sanitation (DOS) honored Carl Berner for his lifetime (he'll be 103 in January) of service to the city of New York. Assistant Commissioner, Vito Turso presented Mr. Berner a Partner in a Cleaner New York Certificate of Appreciation. This award is presented to individuals that play an active and prominent leadership role in maintaining the cleanliness of their communities. In presenting this certificate to Carl

Berner, the DOS is honoring his civic spirit and life-long commitment to making Middle Village a better place.

The Cross Harbor Freight Tunnel Project is indeed an enigma in the 21st century. Because you don't have to be a Traffic Engineer to realize that the construction of a storage building 200 ft. high with a footprint of 43 acres and a volume of approximately 416,000,000 cubic feet would hold enough cargo to supply thousands of additional trucks that would be traversing our roadways everyday. In fact, this monstrous intermodal facility would make Maspeth a Freight Village that would supply Manhattan as well as Connecticut and Long Island. This raises the question of saturation, because the secondary road network was laid out in the early 1900's the areas of western Queens and Brooklyn can't handle the present day truck traffic. The fact that thousands of additional trucks will be stalled in traffic

everyday only compounds the extreme air pollution that western Queens experiences every day. As a matter of record, the EPA noted that Queens has more toxicity in its air than all the other boroughs combined. That is the enigma of the Cross Harbor Tunnel Project; the plan to reduce truck pollution of the air will in the end only

increase it.

The concepts and assumptions proposed in the Cross Harbor Freight Tunnel study are based on the premise that the growth in the transportation of goods east of the Hudson will increase by 70% in the year 2025. However, examining the growth in population statistics for Nassau and Suffolk counties does not support this assumption.

The peak population of Nassau County (1,428,838) occurred in 1970 and as of the year 2001 it was 1,336,336. It is

interesting to note that in the 31 year period covered by the census there has been no growth but a 6% decline in the

population of Nassau County. The most recent population statistics for Suffolk County indicates an 11% increase in the population, that is, a rise from 1,284,231 in 1980 to 1, 427,946 in 2001, approximately a .5% per annum increase in 21 years. Incidentally, the above quoted statistics were gleaned from the respective counties websites.

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement is a voluminous document that would take weeks to read and analyze. The cost of doing the field-work,the gathering of the statistics, the assumptions, the analysis and the reparation of this document have already spent millions of the tax payers money, and this is only the top of the Pork Barrel this Pork Barrel will be the biggest Pork Barrel since the Boston Big Dig.Because we have had to spend billions on security after 09/11/01, we should not be taking up pork barrel projects but spend the monies on the

infrastructure already in place by adding some genuine improvements.

It is imperative that all the elected officials in Queens and Brooklyn stand united with their constituents in opposing the Cross Harbor Freight Tunnel Project. It would indeed be refreshing if Senator Schumer, Senator Clinton and

Mayor Bloomberg supported projects that may not be GRAND but are sorely need and would provide jobs Now!