U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Bayside, Flushing, Forest Hills, Rego Park, Fresh Meadows, Glendale, Kew Gardens, Maspeth) last week pushed back against the city’s initiative to overhaul the city’s aging freight distribution system.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city’s Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) unveiled the plan, Dubbed Freight NYC, also last week, which proposes to change how freight is brought to and distributed throughout the city.
Currently, most goods delivered to New York City comes via trucks that can only enter and exit the city via a few bridges and tunnels. Three crossings, the George Washington Bridge, the Goethals Bridge, and the Lincoln Tunnel, are the main routes that allow large trucks to enter New York City from New Jersey.
Moving freight into Brooklyn and Queens usually requires a second crossing over the East River or the Narrows.
Under the city’s plan, NYCEDC will invest in changing how freight enters the city, assisting in the development of new maritime ports such as a barge terminal to serve the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal in Sunset Park.
Second the city will invest in changing and modernizing how and where freight is stored for distribution and warehousing. And third, NYCEDC will work with partners to incentivize the use of clean and green trucks that deliver goods to residents and local businesses from those facilities.
The rub is Meng’s district, and in particular Maspeth, is slated to become one of the city’s main distribution centers under the plan, and the Congresswoman fears that it will bring unwanted truck traffic and congestion.
“Reducing traffic congestion and pollution from our streets is of course a critical goal. We must do all we can to make New York a cleaner and healthier city. But any plan to overhaul freight distribution must not negatively impact the communities where freight rail is located, and that includes areas in my Congressional district,” said Meng.
“We must be assured that these neighborhoods, which are already overburdened with rail traffic, will not be forced to endure even more idling, noise or air pollution, and that trucks will not clog local streets,” she added.
Meng said the city claims that the project will decrease truck traffic and improve air quality, but this must make sense for all neighborhoods.
“Investments in freight infrastructure are critical but must not be made on the backs of my constituents. I will be watching this project closely, and will express my concerns to the mayor and his administration,” she said.
NYCEDC spokesperson Stephanie Báez responded that Meng’s concerns for a new modernized freight train system would be minimal, considering her district makes up a small portion of Maspeth which already has existing railing yards.
“She has a tiny bit of the Maspeth railyard. The increased frequency of trains passing through the neighborhood will go from one train a day or so to two or so trains a day with minimal impact,” said Báez.
“We understand and appreciate the Congresswoman’s concerns. We will work to mitigate any potential disturbances this plan could pose for her constituents in Maspeth, a longtime mixed industrial and residential community,” she added, noting the plan is also expected to create nearly 5,000 jobs.
Meng’s opposition could torpedo U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler’s (D-Manhattan. Brooklyn) longtime plan to build a Cross Harbor Freight Tunnel connecting New Jersey’s maritime ports to Brooklyn. This multi-billion dollar project needs federal dollars, and having a consensus of agreement among the city’s Congressional delegation would assuredly help foster the large federal investment in the city’s infrastructure.
Nadler applauded de Blasio on his dedication to this freight plan and for his support of the freight tunnel project, which is currently undergoing a Port Authority Environmental Impact Study (EIS) analysis.
“The New York region needs a better way to move goods, plain and simple. On this, there is overwhelming consensus. We must end our over-reliance on trucks that clog and destroy our roads, make the cost of doing business and consumer goods more expensive, harms our environment, raises childhood asthma rates, and creates safety and national security vulnerabilities,” said Nadler.