Business / Environment

Waterfront cement facility in the works

An artist’s rendering of a 16-acre parcel near Oak Point Ave., which would include wetlands, a greenway, a new pier and a new marine terminal for receiving and delivering cement.

Ships, not trucks, will transport dry cement

A Canadian cement company will break ground in August on a 16-acre parcel at the end of East 149th Street, building a facility it said will “revolutionize” the way cement is distributed around the region through water-borne transportation.

At a Community Board 2 Environmental Committee meeting on March 4, representatives from McInnis Cement said the facility, which is adjacent to the Oak Point railyard and the Jetro restaurant supply store, would be constructed within a year after breaking ground. The facility, which will receive, store and distribute dry cement, will include a deep-water pier and a 75,000-foot warehouse up to four stories tall.

City approvals are already in place for the project. Some committee members saw the idea of water-borne transportation to the site as an environmental advancement; others noted that it will generate even more truck traffic through local streets despite its water-borne features. While the facility will reduce trucks in and out of the city as a whole, trucks picking up at the warehouse will still have to come through Hunts Point.

“Will this plant really reduce the truck traffic in the area?” asked committee chair Ralph Acevedo.

“So I’m alleviating traffic in other community boards, but I’m gaining it in my community,” added Rafael Salamanca, the board’s district manager.

When the new marine terminal is operational, a 35,000-ton ship of dry cement will travel from McInnis’ base plant in northern Quebec to the new Hunts Point terminal through deep water each month, traveling down the St. Lawrence River to the Atlantic and then along the eastern shore of the US. The ships will then dock at the pier for four days per month. When its ships are docked, the company will use shore power rather than the marine diesel other companies commonly use.

Dry cement will then be vacuumed out of the ship onto a barge, and pushed into sumps using bulldozers. The dry cement will be loaded into silos, where it can be transferred to trucks for distribution to concrete plants around the city.

Currently, companies in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island get deliveries of dry cement by trucks, which travel through city streets. Jim Braselton, McInnis’ senior vice president of logistics, estimates that the industry generates about 4,000 truck trips per month, contributing to traffic and air pollution. His ships would eliminate those deliveries, he said.

Joseph Swide

Developer Steven Smith on the Oak Point property.

McInnis and the owner of the Oak Point parcel, Steven Smith, engaged with a leading environmental planning and engineering firm based in New York, as well as Barretto Bay Partners, a consulting firm run by The Point co-founder Paul Lipson.

“The environmental footprint is going to be better than any cement plant in North America, across the board,” Braselton said.

Salamanca was adamant that the construction would not only benefit local business, but residents as well.

“How will this project benefit the people in my community?” he asked.

A total of 19 new jobs will be created with the construction of the plant, 10 of which will be set aside for residents, Braselton said. Workers will earn between $50,000-80,000 a year, “with very good benefit packages,” he added.

The project also includes three acres of restored wetlands and will eventually feature a public-access greenway. That idea was originally planned by Smith, who purchased the parcel in 2002. However, his initial efforts were washed away by Superstorm Sandy in October 2013, just months after he completed a $1.5 million investment in the wetlands and the property.

When Smith first bought the property, he cleared mountains of trash dumped by the previous owners. His first plan was to propose a power plant on the site, but the community board voted it down. Subsequently, he helped residents defeat the city’s plan to take the site by eminent domain and build a jail on it. In 2010, he sold 12 acres of the original 28-acre parcel to Jetro Cash & Carry. He was attempting to construct a multi-level local produce distribution center, when Sandy came along. All through those iterations, he said, community access was always part of his plans.

“We genuinely want to be good partners in the community,” said Braselton. “Combining an industrial facility with people access and the wetlands makes a very strong statement in New York in total, if not in the Bronx.”

Salamanca proposed that the company create a community benefit package, which would help fund existing community programs such as educational group Rocking the Boat.

“I’m certainly looking forward to this becoming a reality,” said Dr. Ian Amritt, the board’s chair. “We can set the trend.”

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