A Brooklyn neighborhood’s long fight for green jobs is…
Offshore wind companies, including Equinor, have started reaching out to community groups such as THE UPCLOSE and local business leaders who plan to transform the vacant terminal. Developers would need a place to store, assemble and repair huge offshore wind turbine blades and towers – some of which almost fit 900 feet high – before transporting them to sea. Specialized vessels carrying turbine parts and crew should load, unload and refuel at docks.
At the same time, a separate effort to commercialize parts of the waterfront was underway: the owner of a nearby development called Industry City was offering a $1 billions of dollars of expansion that could potentially surround the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal with high-end hotels and luxury retail stores.
Developers said the expansion plan could create up to 20,000 works. Critics argued that the megadevelopment risked increasing property values in Sunset Park in exchange for adding mostly low-wage retail positions. They also feared that it would threaten the development of green industrial activities. In neighborhood meetings and city hearings, climate advocates and progressive politicians opposed the plan.
“This rezoning could exacerbate real estate pressures, displacement, rising rents, congestion, pollution and shift the nature of the waterfront forever from manufacturing to commercial tourism,” said U.S. Representatives Nydia Velázquez (D-NY ) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). with New York State Senator Zellnor Myrie (D-Crown Heights), wrote in a 2019 letter to the town planning department.
Maintaining Sunset Park’s industrial character is key to maintaining affordable housing in the area, says Eddie Bautista, executive director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, whose THE UPCLOSE is a member.
“Some people say that the best way to improve the quality of life in these [frontline] communities is to… zone these [industrial] use,” he says. Another route is to create new clean energy businesses while cleaning up pollution from existing facilities. In Sunset Park, these sites, along with heavy truck traffic, contribute to higher levels of harmful air pollution than in Brooklyn and New York as a whole.
“Our mission has been to attract the kind of industries we need to execute a just transition for New York,” says Bautista.
In 2020, amid growing resistance, the Industry City promoter withdrew its proposal, marking an important victory for those who favored the development of green industry. Soon after, plans to reorganize the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal began to come to fruition.
Preparing Sunset Park for a new kind of industrial waterfront
In March, Equinor signed an agreement with the city’s Economic Development Corporation to use the 73one-hectare site to stage and assemble turbine components imported from Europe. Equine and PB are jointly developing two offshore wind farms: the 2.1– Empire gigawatt wind project near Long Island and the 1.2– gigawatt Beacon Wind project off the coast of New England.
The projects are part of a larger push in New York state to build 9 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity per 2035enough to provide approximately 30 % of total state electricity needs. In addition to generating more carbon-free energy, state and city officials hope to grab many of the jobs and supply chain investments that are expected to emerge with nascent American industry.
“We are extremely proud to lay the groundwork today for our vision to make New York a national hub for the offshore wind industry,” said Lindsay Greene of the Economic Development Corporation earlier this year when announcing from the Sunset Park hub.
Besides New York, nine East Coast states and Ohio have offshore wind projects underway, and California is working to develop floating wind farms off the Pacific coast.
Yet the United States still has some way to go to catch up with the rest of the world. Of the 56 gigawatts of cumulative offshore wind capacity installed worldwide, i.e. less than 0.1 % spins off the US coast, with five wind turbines near Rhode Island and two near the Virginia coast.
At Sunset Park, Equinor and PB say they will invest $250 million to modernize the infrastructure of the South Brooklyn marine terminal and make it a “low emission facility. Basically, the developers committed to creating a $5 million “ecosystem fund” to help train and prepare New York residents for careers in offshore wind. Equinor will build a public learning center at its Sunset Park offices. It also creates a workforce development plan to assess local skills gaps for the various stages of the project.
Alba Pena, of Equinor’s Brooklyn office, said her outreach team is growing rapidly and working closely with the Sunset Park Task Force, the coalition of elected officials, local residents, businesses and community groups. “Although we have offshore wind experience, that doesn’t mean we have offshore wind experience in the United States,” she says.
Avilés, a member of the city council, is part of the working group. She says the project will only succeed in her eyes if it delivers on the promise of clean energy jobs for Sunset Park residents.
“The community that has borne the brunt of environmental racism must be front and center to receive the [hub’s] benefits,” she says.
For its part, THE UPCLOSE plans to continue to push for other improvements, such as ensuring that specialist ships don’t idle and pump harmful exhaust gases into the neighborhood, as well as securing space on the rooftops of Equinor buildings for community solar projects. As offshore wind takes off along the US coast, Yeampierre hopes Sunset Park can serve as a model for including marginalized communities in the development of this new US industry.
“For us, it’s really important that what’s happening here becomes a landmark for people across the country,” she said.