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Hell’s Kitchen activist Leslie Boghosian Murphy sees wildfire red moons and the energy-guzzling Scarlet Lady as signs that we need to go green.

Virgin’s Scarlet Lady with a wildfire red moon above. Photo: Phil O’Brien

#Redmoon was trending this week on social media. I appreciated the aesthetic, along with all the authors of heart and starry eye emojis. But I also recognized the reason for the aberration. Floodwaters are rising (remember Ida!?), New York City is getting hotter and wildfires are turning the moon red. (The moon isn’t really red; it’s the particles in the Earth’s atmosphere affecting the light, which is the science-y explanation.)

This week another Instagram-worthy scene emerged on the west side — Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady became the first cruise ship to visit Manhattan since before COVID. The 17-deck behemoth, which proudly boasts an electric usage “enough to power a small city,” curiously is not here to board or disembark passengers, at least not for travel. It is here to serve strictly as a party boat.

To have the equivalent of a 60-story sideways skyscraper running for days in our backyard serving as a glorified night scene is horrifying and head-scratching

We live in the greatest city in the world, but our air quality — particularly on the west side — is some of the worst in all of NYC. Cited in a 2019 NY Times article, these cruise ships docking at Piers 88 and 90 Manhattan Cruise Terminal spew out diesel emissions equivalent to 34,000 idling tractor-trailers PER DAY. It is one of the greatest contributors to the area’s greenhouse gas emissions and we can’t condone it any longer. 

Yes, it’s exciting to see the city returning to pre-COVID form and the symbolism of a giant, international cruise ship sweeping up the Hudson does not escape me. But what this pandemic has allowed us to do is press the restart button. It has, in certain respects, given us a clean slate and our leaders would be foolish not to take advantage of this opportunity to implement stronger, greener, more forward-thinking policy. To have the equivalent of a 60-story sideways skyscraper running for days in our backyard serving as a glorified night scene is horrifying and head-scratching. In this case, the commonplace argument of job opportunity does not apply in today’s workforce environment. And how many Idas do we have to go through to fully commit to a new set of political priorities? 

In correlation with our visiting party boat, this week the NYC Economic Development Corporation, who oversees the Manhattan Cruise Terminal, sent an email alerting us the cruise ships will again start inhabiting our waters. During my recent run for NY City Council, I stressed the importance of eliminating the constant ship exhaust that pollutes our neighborhood by either installing electric shore power, including the connecting electric grid infrastructure projects, or carbon capture and storage. Pre-COVID, we initiated discussions with ConEd on how to expand the grid allowing cruise ships to plug in and work off electric power as they do in other ports around the world. This, paired with industry’s shift to electric vehicles, makes our energy update efforts a paramount priority. 

Poor air quality is one of the greatest urban threats. We need to change course because, without a serious commitment to a greener path forward, there will be many more red moons in our future. 

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