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Maximizing Maritime Potential at Gowanus Bay
Monday, June 18, 2012 - 9:08am
Last Available Berth at Terminal Snapped Up by Vane Bros.
John Quadrozzi, president of GBX-Gowanus Bay Terminal, stands on the highest platform of his magnificent old bulk carrier, the MV Loujaine, reconfigured as a floating cement silo docked in Gowanus Bay. Vessels dock alongside the Loujaine and unload cement or flyash into the hold. A massive conveying system (photo below) transfers the material to waiting trucks.
Mr. Quadrozzi points out the neighboring shoreline businesses. There's Hornbeck Offshore Services, which delivers fuel to ships in the harbor, and LaFarge Cement, which receives cement by barge at the 25th Street Pier. There's New York Sand and Stone, which processes dredged material from the Amboy Channel for beneficial reuse.
There are the city generators powered by fuel delivered by barge, and there's Hess Oil, which operates a fuel depot near the mouth of the Gowanus Canal, piping fuel from vessels into storage tanks. Docked next to the Loujaine are vessels owned by Vane Brothers, an East Coast tug and barge company that just signed a six-year lease on the terminal's last unoccupied berth. Among other jobs, Vane moves petroleum received via water by Hess back out to bunker ships at anchor in New York Harbor.
This photo was taken from the deck of the bulk carrier MV Loujaine. Beyond the Vane Bros. barges is the mouth of Gowanus Bay and New York Harbor. Below, aboard the MV Loujaine.
"Moving cargo to and from Brooklyn via water--this is commerce that never touches our roadways!" says Mr. Quadrozzi, whose goal is to create an environmentally friendly industrial ecosystem on Gowanus Bay. "This is the first time in decades that Gowanus Bay is completely utilized," he notes.
What a turn-around for the bay. An empty silo (below) is the only evidence of what was once a busy hub of grain deliveries, part of New York's Erie Canal barge system in the early 20th century, before the waters of Gowanus grew stagnant. Mr. Quadrozzi owns the silo, along with 33 acres of underwater property and 13 acres of upland property. He hopes to move the cement delivery operation of the Loujaine into the 70,000-ton capacity silo and create more space for vessels loading and unloading material by moving docks out to deeper water. He dreams of a network of industries on the bay that fuel each other -- reuse of building materials, a waste-to-energy facility, a supplier of bio-diesel, and more. "The shoreline industries of Gowanus Bay are alive and well -- and proactive," he says.
His colleagues have expansion plans, too. "We expect to complete some improvements to the pier that will allow additional barge docking and make this facility a long term part of our New York operations," says Mike Barr, a Vane Bros. executive.
For years Mr. Quadrozzi has utilized New York City's maritime infrastructure in his other business, Quadrozzi Concrete. The ability to barge in high-quality cement from Greece or Mexico helped Quadrozzi Concrete win bids to build major skyscrapers, including 7 World Trade Center and the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle.
In 1997, he established the Gowanus Bay Terminal. Back then, "the Bay was like a stew," he says, and feral dogs roamed the shoreline. "Today you can actually see fish -- but it's still very polluted."
It's also teeming with industrial maritime activity. Back up on the Loujaine platform, Mr. Quadrozzi points out more auspicious signs that Brooklyn's working waterfront is gaining momentum. To the south is the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal, where the NYC Economic Development Corporation is close to reactivating maritime services that specialize in recycling and automobile deliveries. To the north is Erie Basin, crowded with tugs and barges belonging to Reinauer and Hughes Marine and visited many times every day by the IKEA water taxi.
Mr. Quadrozzi knows the importance of telling the story of the working waterfront to the public. "We'll be adding a waterfront awareness component to Gowanus Bay Terminal," he promises. "We'll have an educational tour bus where folks can learn about the industrial waterfront and how it plays an important role for our environment, sustainability and quality of life."