Sunset Park residents are worried about the potential truck surge that could be coming to the neighborhood as a result of redevelopment of the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal (SBMT), announced this past summer at a press conference hosted by Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Local dignitaries along with residents fear the number of trucks traveling through Sunset could reach up to 50,000, potentially causing traffic and pollution problems. The neighborhood already experiences a high amount of truck traffic thanks to the industrial uses along the waterfront. In addition, advocates have cited the elevated Gowanus Expressway as a potential cause of the community’s high rate of asthma and cancer.
“It is frustrating that the city always looks to Sunset Park to save other communities,” said Tony Giordano, founder of the Sunset Parker Facebook page. “It is also frustrating to think that now the mayor and our elected officials want to remove trucks from the roads of New Jersey, again to our detriment.”
“I don’t know much about the situation, but that sounds like that could result in a terrible situation, especially since we have enough traffic problems,” added Sunset resident Ramon Oyola.
Former Assembymember Javier Nieves echoes their fears. “I have the same concerns that most people in the neighborhood have, especially when you’re talking about the high asthma rate,” he said. “You’re going to get much more traffic in every artery. It will have a negative impact on the area.”
Assemblymember Felix Ortiz recently wrote to de Blasio, requesting that the redevelopment not create an additional traffic burden for Sunset Park residents when the terminal officially opens. “What I asked the mayor was to explain to us, with this project coming, what are the amounts of trucks that will come through Sunset Park?” Ortiz told this paper. “We’re hearing that some people are saying that it’s up to 50,000.”
Along with potential traffic congestion, pollution is at the top of Ortiz’s concerns. “The bottom line is where is the environmental study that will tell us how many trucks will be allowed to come through?” he asked. “We have the Gowanus that is jammed. Third and Fourth Avenues are jammed. Explain to us how we are going to deal with the traffic and trucking situation, especially since we have four schools nearby.” Ortiz also demanded that a study be done to make sure the air is safe for Sunset residents, given the high rates of asthma and bronchitis.
However some believe the assemblymember should have voiced these concerns sooner. “I find Felix’s letter disingenuous since he stood next to de Blasio when the announcement was made,” said Giordano. “I wrote to (Ortiz) and three of his staff asking why he would support 55,000 trucks a year being taken off the roads in an industrial area in New Jersey and put in the heart of residential Sunset Park.”
Although he attended the conference, Ortiz claims he has always had these concerns and expressed them early on. “I never said that I’m behind the project,” said Ortiz. “I went to the press conference but I’ve made it very clear that I want an environmental study and I want to know how many trucks are going to come through before I make my decision to support it.”
Either way, Sunset residents remain concerned. “I can only think the situation — in terms of air quality — would get worse with the amount of trucks coming into the neighborhood,” Nieves said. “Its going to be a major problem in Sunset Park.”