A Distant Expansion’s Impact on the NYC Waterfront

April 23, 2012 at 4:00 am

A container ship owned by CMA CGM unloads cargo at the Port of Newark, NJ. A new project to replace two water tunnels in the Anchorage Channel anticipates the massive post-Panamax ships that will soon pass through the Panama Canal and make their way up the eastern seaboard. AP/Mark Lennihan

In 2006, Panamanian voters approved a massive plan to double the shipping capacity of the Panama Canal. The expansion will allow an influx of large, post-Panamax  container ships (Panamax refers to the size limit of ships that currently pass through the canal) to travel up the eastern seaboard.  The problem is, only the ports in Miami and Norfolk, VA, are able to handle these types of ships on the east coast. Other ports, including the those overseen by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, are working fast to update their harbor infrastructure to accommodate these ships. When the big ships come in, starting  in 2014, the long-declining waterfront industry is expected to experience a new boom time.

Navigate the map the learn where container ships bring goods to NY and NJ:

View seaports managed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in a larger map

This map was created using information from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

As part of the preparation, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey must dredge the Anchorage Channel in the Hudson River so the deep-hulled ships can pass through. In order for this $1 billion project to happen, some other harbor fittings have to go.  Running under the harbor floor from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, to Stapleton, Staten Island, are two siphons that would serve as back-up should the main conduit of upstate drinking water to Staten Island ever fail.

The main water supply to Staten Island is the 10-feet-deep Richmond Tunnel.

As the harbor loses some of its floor, these two siphons must be replaced with a much deeper siphon. The new siphon will bring much cleaner water, in the event of a conduit failure, than is currently available.

Click Image to Enlarge:

This graphic shows the steps involved in the first phase of cleaning the lower Passaic River. Construction of the dredging enclosure began on Oct. 31. Image courtesy of the EPA.

The Port Authority and New York City Department of Environmental Protection will share the costs of this $250 million project, which will be carried out by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers through 2014.

Another aspect of the overall harbor project entails raising the Bayonne Bridge by 64 feet to allow the large ships to pass. That $1 billion project will be completed by 2016.

By 2024, the amount of cargo moved into the New York Harbor is expected to double, and by 2054 it will quadruple, according to the New York City Economic Development Corporation‘s estimates. Additionally, the siphon project is expected to create 200 construction jobs, and 75 related jobs.

It’s a significant project that the city expects to pay off in the long run. The Port of New York and New Jersey, even though it employees far less people than it did in the 1950s, is still the third largest container port in the United States. According to the Economic Development Corporation, the port supports 270,000 jobs and produces about $9 billion in annual business income.


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