Guest Op-Ed: Rebuilding Brooklyn’s waterfront

Brooklyn has a lot at stake in the debate over how to prioritize New York State’s investments. Waterfront revitalization, freight rail expansion, brownfield remediation and expansion mean jobs and healthier neighborhoods for our communities.

Earlier this year, I introduced the Urban Restoration Bond Act. This bill would place a question before the voters in a referendum at the November general election: Should New York make up to $2 billion available through bonding for projects to repair and restore our state’s infrastructure? A ‘yes’ vote could provide the resources to bring progress to Brooklyn and all New York.

And it’s why I will be working with Governor Andrew Cuomo in my new leadership position as assistant Assembly speaker to explore state efforts to supplement federal Superfund dollars and to provide tax credits for the clean-up of brownfield sites.

As you know, brownfield sites are areas contaminated by toxic wastes from past industrial and military projects left unprotected. The elimination of brownfields is a key step to protecting the health of our kids as well as to a healthier economy.

This is an especially opportune time to invest in Brooklyn’s infrastructure. Look no further than the Panama Canal. In less than two years, the Panama Canal is scheduled to open up a new channel that will accommodate ships carrying double the cargo of those that it can accommodate currently.

As a result, Eastern seaboard ports are scrambling to prepare for a new maritime-based economic boom. I want Red Hook, Sunset Park and all of Brooklyn to be ready for this influx of freight.

Now is the time for Brooklyn to prepare to upgrade waterfront terminals so that our terminals can benefit from the new class of megaships that will be fully loaded with freight and will need railways to transport cargo to its final destination. We must ready our ports for this expansion with on-dock rail capability and near-dock intermodal facilities.

This is a crucial time to improve economic growth at the same time as improving infrastructure. It is the trifecta of infrastructure improvements: waterfront revitalization, possible brownfields clean-ups, and expansion of rail-based economy all in one.

As assistant speaker, I look forward to continued work for our Assembly district in Albany and with our congressional delegation and city administration to find ways to revitalize our waterfronts and expand freight rail for the benefit of all New Yorkers and the economy of our state.

Assemblymember Felix Ortiz is assistant speaker of the New York State Assembly.

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