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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.
“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.”