NYC Returning to Its Roots as a Maritime Freight Hub

Plans are in the works to establish maritime freight hubs at six New York City waterfront sites, once again taking advantage of the strong asset that the waterways had provided in years past as a mode of transportation. Decisions by the city were prompted by the anticipated launch of the new congestion pricing program; and intended to help companies adjust to increased costs by creating marine highways for increased delivery via the city’s waterways. A request for proposals was released by the New York City Economic Development Corp. (NYCEDC); and although a schedule has yet to be set for the launch of the hubs, the city says, “after contracts and approvals have been secured construction would likely unfold over a year.” A total of six sites for the construction of floating platforms have been selected — (3) in Lower Manhattan, (2) in Brooklyn, and (1) in the Bronx for the drop-off of cargo traveling by barges and then sent to their final destination via cargo bikes or other small vehicles. The plan is anticipated to alleviate some of the 90% of goods that enter and move around New York on trucks, which contributes to the city’s clogged streets, poor air quality, and safety issues. DOT data shows that “more than 2.3 million packages are delivered in the five boroughs each day — up from 1.5 million packages before COVID-19. In addition, prior to the pandemic the ratio between deliveries to commercial customers and residential consumers was 60% and 40% respectively but has significantly shifted in recent years with direct residential deliveries now accounting for 80% of delivered packages resulting in more trucks clogging residential streets.

The project is part of New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) and NYCEDC’s “Blue Highways” initiative to further promote the use of the city’s waterways for transporting goods, thereby helping to reduce the overreliance on trucks and aligning with the city’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. With that in mind, it emphasis on sustainability must be at the core of the city’s maritime freight efforts moving forward so that the city is not “just transferring the harm in air quality” from the streets to the waterways.