In the battle to put the brakes on harmful emissions, cruise ships arriving into New York have agreed to connect to shore power by 2028.

Manhattan Cruise Terminal
Passengers disembarking across the West Side Highway from the Norwegian Escape last Sunday. Photo: Phil O’Brien

And to sweeten the pill for the residents of Hell’s Kitchen and Red Hook — the neighborhoods most affected by the ever-growing number of cruise vessels arriving in New York — every passenger will face a $1 levy, which could raise up to $14 million for a community fund.

The news comes as New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC), which manages Piers 79, 88, 90, 92 and 94 within Hudson River Park, announced plans that could see even more ships arriving at an improved Pier 90. “Our operator, Ports America, is actively working on an apron extension to allow for additional ships to dock and unlock the full potential of the pier,” an EDC press release revealed. Officials told W42ST that the extension is in its initial planning and permit stages, which will include a public consultation. Construction is slated for 2024-2025.

Manhattan Cruise Terminal
The new deal will give extra capacity for more cruise ships at Pier 90. Photo: Phil O’Brien

EDC has set a deadline of 2028 to reduce emissions and to ensure all ships will connect to shore power. But it’s a tough ask — even though it is the city’s busiest cruise ship terminal and the fourth busiest in the US, Manhattan Cruise Terminal (MCT) currently has no access to shore power. Brooklyn does — but it is being connected to ships only half the time. According to the West Side Cruise Terminal’s schedule, there are 227 days in which ships are expected to be in port in Hell’s Kitchen this year. Red Hook’s schedule shows 43 days in which ships are expected to be in port, with only 21 of them connected to shore power. 

“Hell’s Kitchen and Midtown West have been living with suffocating pollution for decades, a direct result of these cruise ships parked in our backyard spewing copious amounts of harmful emissions. I am relieved the EDC and cruise ship industry recognize the damaging impact these ships have had on our neighborhood and are now attempting to rectify the issue,” said Leslie Boghosian Murphy, an advocate for a greener Hell’s Kitchen. “You can be sure we will continue to push shore power and shorten the proposed timeline. I am confident we can have the cruise ships plugging in and using clean energy well before the announced 2028 deadline.”

As part of the plans, EDC will create a community priority fund in which $1 per passenger is added to a pot managed by the agency, used to address community priorities in the neighborhoods surrounding the cruise terminals. The agency estimates they will raise $14 million over the next 10 years as a result. The EDC already give 20 percent of the rent from the cruise terminal to Hudson River Park Trust. It is unclear how the new community priority fund will be distributed, and to whom.

In the deal, EDC has also pledged to partner with major operators Carnival, Norwegian and MSC Cruises to track and improve ground transportation. They will also work to “reduce emissions where commercially and operationally feasible.”  Each cruise line must submit an annual report to EDC showcasing their progress. The new agreements range from three to 15 years, with an option for five-year renewals. 

Manhattan Cruise Terminal
Cruise ships, like this Norwegian vessel, have agreed to plug into electric power when in port from 2028. Photo: Phil O’Brien

“Anything that can be done to improve the terminal from a pollution standpoint is welcome news,” said Jeffrey LeFrancois, Manhattan Community Board 4 Chair. “Unfortunately, big projects like this take a lot of time. We really need to be laser-focused and expedite projects that will provide more resiliency and reduce the city’s carbon footprints.”               

The announcement comes amid new legislation to force cruise ships to switch off their engines in port being pushed by Councilmembers Alexa Aviles and Erik Bottcher, co-sponsors of the bill. It mandates that all cruise ships in port across the city, including those at Manhattan’s Cruise Terminal, must utilize shore power by connecting to the city’s electric grid instead of relying on fossil fuels.

Manhattan Cruise Terminal
Cruise lines have also agreed to report on traffic issues in the neighborhood. Photo: Phil O’Brien

“This announcement has some amazing features, like the community fund and this is an important step in the right direction, but we still need the physical shore power infrastructure at the terminal. This agreement may require the major cruise lines to plug in — but in Manhattan, we don’t have shore power for them,” said Councilmember Bottcher.

“The Manhattan Cruise Terminal is a major driver of economic activity in Manhattan and it is vital that we continue these benefits while putting a stop to the environmental damage it causes. We will continue pushing until we achieve our goals,” he continued.

“Every day that a ship docks at port and remains unplugged releases the equivalent of 34,000 tractor-trailers burning fuel,” warned Councilmember Alexa Aviles as local officials launched a bid to reduce cruise ship pollution last week. 

The EDC said in their press release that the cruise industry boosts NYC’s economy by $420 million annually and supports 2,667 jobs, primarily in tourism-related sectors. They expect a record 1.3 million passengers at Manhattan and Brooklyn terminals this year, indicating a strong cruise tourism rebound.

Manhattan Cruise Terminal
Passengers heading home on Sunday after a week away on the Norwegian Escape. Photo: Phil O’Brien

“The cruise industry is a massive driver in New York City’s economy, generating thousands of good-paying jobs for New Yorkers and helping fuel the tourism and hospitality industry,” said EDC President & CEO Andrew Kimball. “It is essential to ensure that these large-scale industries remain focused on sustainability and working alongside the community in all aspects, which is exactly what this agreement does.”

Join the Conversation


  1. Headline should read “Cruise lines commit but will the shore power be there?”
    You can’t tout laws that are impossible to enforce. What will they do in 2028 if th power line isn’t there. Grant a waiver? Put the funding into the project then tout the progress.

  2. This is similar to the Hudson River Park Trust W.30th VIP Heliport just downstream from the Cruises. Some control may happen, but the long timeline is typical of EDC and electeds’ efforts. Long enough for stonewalling and no results.
    Meanwhile, the spewing VIP Heliport will never be closed by electeds because it is a toxic privilege sold by the Trust to its own Wealthy donor class. Those of us who have fought for 25 years to close the heliport have been completely stonewalled by the undemocratic and historically corrupt HRP Trust. The Hudson River Park was a designed in 1998 as Wealth’s Development corridor after Westway was defeated.

  3. 2028? This is something to cheer about? Until then, just keep choking on the air? Stop destroying our neighborhoods with tourists. These ships are an environmental catastrophe either docked or at sea. We do not need more and bigger ships. Between the never ending tunnel traffic along with the heliports the city is killing us! When is it time for NYC priorities to be about the people who actually live here?!

  4. Councilmember Aviles references the equivalency of tractor-trailer pollution but what of the supply (actual) tractor trailers?

    The tractor trailers that supply the cruise ships that dock at the Manhattan Cruise Ship terminals arrive (up to) 24 hours in advance of an arriving cruise ship, park on the 12th Avenue (West Side Highway) access road, from Piers 99 down to Piers 94, as well as on the northbound side, adjacent to DeWitt Clinton Park, and idle engines (mostly to air condition the tractor trailer cabs while the drivers sleep aboard, overnight). At any given time, there may be over a dozen trucks doing so.

    As we know NYC prohibits idling of engines for more than three minutes.

    This can be policed NOW but is NOT.

  5. The headline is buried here – Melissa is right. Right now, the power doesn’t exist in Manhattan for the ships to plug into. A promise to plug in is meaningless if the power isn’t available.

  6. Cruise ships have been pulling into those slips for years. That is never going to change. This is a step in the right direction but how about passenger disembarkment and the crowds that gathered on a small section of sidewalk to cross the street to stand on another small patch of concrete.

  7. I may be in the minority here, but I’m a longtime HK resident who has actually been in the Manhattan Cruise Terminal. I take two or three cruises a year that depart from there, typically from Pier 88. First things first… that terminal is a disgrace and doesn’t set the proper tone to welcome visitors to New York. It’s like the LaGuardia Airport of cruise ship terminals, before LGA was extensively remodeled. There are virtually no services available once inside: scant seating, no proper food service, few functioning bathrooms; it is among the worst passenger terminals in the world. And yet it drives enormous economic activity and employs a lot of people, some of whom are neighborhood residents. Secondly, the cruise industry has made major strides in sustainability over the past few decades, yet most people still think they “spew garbage” in the ocean. That’s not really happening anymore. Most of what goes on the ship gets recycled or taken off the ship when in port. Now, as for requiring dockside power, this is a major agreement and should be celebrated, while we work to speed up the timeline. As for the trucks that idle all night long as they wait to deliver goods, this is a very real problem and should be addressed immediately, as the law already exists to prohibit this. Of course, there are laws prohibiting pot smoking in public parks and those aren’t enforced, either… as a Democrat and Progressive, I think it’s awfully funny what we get our liberal knickers in a twist about… it’s ALL important and it all needs to be addressed. But you want to immediately improve the quality of life in Hell’s Kitchen? You want the people who live here not to be subjected to thousands of toxins and cancer causing agents? Enforce the laws that prohibit public smoking and vaping! That can be done now. No need to wait till 2028.

  8. Does anyone know how much power will be needed to take a city of over 5000 people off of generator power? Do you realize how much construction will be needed to run electric cables to the Piers? How many streets will need to be dug up? Today’s cruise ships are much more environmentally friendly then they were just 10 years ago. Even the delivery trucks are more environmentally friendly. Don’t get me wrong, I think shore power is a great idea, but who will profit from all this polluting construction? Where is the power coming from to supply the cruise terminal with shore power, a fossil fueled power plant in someone else’s backyard?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *