Hoping to still use the former Military Ocean Terminal for what it was constructed to be as a cargo center, members of the Bayonne Local 1588 International Longshoremen’s Association are on a mission to inform the public about a possible financial boon for Bayonne.
Although largely ignored by city officials, who envision the MOTBY as a massive mixed use development that would generate additional taxes and prestige to the city, local members Angelo Mack and Rob Dickey believe Bayonne’s economy would surge if the base was to be developed as a container port instead.
Mack, who has been discouraged from speaking at several public meetings, said Bayonne could be the most important port in the New York area, accommodating shipping that other parts of the harbor may never be able to handle.
Because of MOTBY’s location on the western shore of New York Bay, it would be available to handle new larger ships that may never be able to reach the shores of Port Newark because of the Bayonne Bridge.
“In order for these ships to reach Port Newark, the Port Authority would have to knock down or rebuild the Bayonne Bridge,” Mack said.
Even this would take years to accomplish and might result in a massive shift of cargo shipping to the southern states and a large loss to the New York economy.
A study conducted by Rutgers’s University in 2006 shows that the largest growth industry in the New York area involves aspects of cargo shipping, and Mack believes that Bayonne could become the cutting edge of this industry, providing the city with jobs as well as restoring its economy.
Mayor Joseph Doria came out last year in opposition to plans to use all or a portion of MOBTY for a container port and the development, modifying original plans that would have used one development district for this year.
Instead, the redevelopment plan calls for a maritime district, which could continue to accommodate cruise ships and roll-off cargo, such as new, important automobiles.
To prohibit cargo, agreements with residential developers on the MOTBY specifically prohibit cargo freight, but not roll-off.
“Roll off cargo is the least profitable kind of cargo operation you can have,” Dickey said. “And if anyone sets up that kind of operation on the MOTBY, it is likely to fail.”
Mack noted that the BRLA contingency plans for the maritime district include the development of additional residential homes, expanding the planned number of a residential until for the 430-acre base well-above the estimated 7,000 units currently envisioned.
While the city hopes to capitalize on the sale of the land for development, Mack and Dickey believe this is a mistake since the MOTBY remains one of the last available piers in New York Harbor, which if the harbor is dredged, could provide a significant and consistent revenue stream to the city.
While the city – through the BLRA – is pouring money into MOTBY for infrastructure improvement in order to make redevelopment attractive, Mack and Dickey said shipping companies are lining up to do the work themselves
In fact, the city has already received an offer from perhaps two of the largest container shipping companies in the world that would give the city $25 million upfront for rights to develop part or all of MOTBY as a container port.
In a proposal submitted to the city on April 6, The Shaw Group and Worldwide Group would take on the cost of rebuilding MOTBY for use as a container port.
The city would also receive yearly lease payments, and retain ownership of the property although the company would be responsible for infrastructure improvements.
“This is one proposal,” said Dickey. “What might happen if the city went out for bids on it? How much better an offer could it get for the site?”
Mack estimated that a 1,000 or more would be generated depending upon how much of the site was converted for container terminal use.
Called Port Liberty Bayonne Container Terminal, the project would take two years to implement, so that by 2009 the site would generated 1,050 new jobs, and jobs would increase yearly so that by 2016 the site would have created as many as 3,360 jobs.
“These are high paying union jobs,” Mack said, “Not low paying service jobs stores would create.”
The site would generate about $57 million in local taxes annually according to the proposal’s projections.
The two companies would pay the whole estimated $360 million to upgrade the facility, as well as pay yearly lease payments to the BLRA
Both men dismissed many of the objections raised against the container port, saying that the new facility would have some of the most up-to-date equipment and that the security risk that some local and national politicians claim is exaggerated.
Fear of possible terrorist attacks using a cargo container is one of the arguments against housing a cargo facility in Bayonne.
With cargo ships passing along the southern shore of Bayonne on a daily basis, some argue the threat already exist, although Mack and Dickey claim terrorists would be more likely to use oil transports than cargo containers.
Both men say union officials would work to keep any cargo container port as environmentally friendly as possible. They also said traffic issues – another argument against locating container port in Bayonne – are also misleading, since the residential use of MOTBY would likely generate more traffic than cargo would since regional transportation plans for area include the reconstruction of rail links to the harbor.
“This is a really good opportunity for Bayonne to become one of the most important facilities on the east coast,” said Dickey. “This generates jobs, not just on the site, but around the city.”