By Conor Greene
Speaking at a press conference in Brooklyn this week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg indicated he might support for the Cross Harbor Tunnel project, which would bring thousands of trucks to Maspeth.
The comments, made Monday in Sunset Park alongside Rep. Jerrold Nadler, represent another change in Bloomberg’s view of the project, which would connect Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island with the national railroad freight network in New Jersey. The plan has come under considerable fire from the Juniper Park Civic Association and other local groups because of the impact the increased truck traffic would have locally.
At a JPCA meeting in 2005, Bloomberg said the project “really would destroy neighborhoods here in this area and we just can’t do that.” However, on Monday he called the tunnel “a good long-term solution” provided “we find a ways to make sure it is economically sustainable and that its damage, or its impact is a better word, on neighborhoods where you go in and out is something we manage without destroying those neighborhoods.”
Rep. Nadler, who represents parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, has spearheaded the cross harbor tunnel plan for years. He noted that the Port Authority is currently creating an Environmental Impact Statement to gauge the impact the project would have on local areas. “There is not going to be tremendous impact on any neighborhoods because they can design it in such a way with multiple terminals and so forth so no particular neighborhood has unmitigated consequences as were feared a number of years ago.”
Still, the mayor’s comments drew sharp rebuke from local civic and elected officials who have fought against the plan in the past. “It sounds like candidate Mike Bloomberg is trying to please everyone including Congressman Jerrold Nadler whose pastime seems to be wasting taxpayer money,” said JPCA President Robert Holden. “Nadler is beholden to construction unions and railroad interests who send him on lavish vacations and give him thousands of dollars in campaign contributions while he acts as their mouthpiece.”
Holden said the JPCA is prepared to hold Mayor Bloomberg to his prior statements regarding the plan. Aside from arguing at the 2005 JPCA meeting that the tunnel would “destroy neighborhoods,” Bloomberg told the civic group, “When you get done looking at all the pros and cons, the answer is we should not build this tunnel. We would destroy homes and we just can’t do that.” Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) said she is against the current tunnel proposal and “any plan that would put a major truck depot in Maspeth.”
“While I understand that moving to rail is an important step to greening New York and reducing the total number of trucks on the street, the current plan calls for a truck depot to bare the full weight of influx of goods onto the Maspeth community,” continued Crowley. “If the mayor and Port Authority are going to take a serious look at this proposal they have to come up with a plan to share the burden with Brooklyn, Long Island and the other destinations for cross harbor freight. The current plan is bad for our community and only moves truck traffic from Manhattan to Queens and that is unacceptable.”
Bloomberg’s latest comments suggest the possibility that he is prepared to once again shift his position on the project, which he first supported before vowing his opposition to it at the JPCA meeting. Earlier this year, he noted that tunnels are problematic in terms of security and that the project would require “a lot of money” but added that “down the road, it’s not the world’s worst idea.”