Port Profile: New York's Brooklyn
Brooklyn's ship has come in: Cunard's Queen Mary 2 docked this morning at its new homeport, marking the grand opening of the brand-new Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in Red Hook.
When we took a hard-hat tour of the terminal last month, escalators were being tested, carpet was being laid and construction vehicles dotted the landscape. Today, the 182,000-square-ft., $56 million facility was bustling with activity as passengers disembarked and new guests began checking in for the first of QM2's many trans-Atlantic crossings between Brooklyn and Southampton.
Outside, QM2 towered toward the warm mid-morning sun (dwarfing the Statue of Liberty, visible just in the distance) and a bagpiper played "New York, New York" as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg kicked off the official opening ceremony for the terminal. Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Queen Mary 2's captain Bernard Warner and Cunard President Carol Marlow were among those also on hand for the festivities.
Mayor Bloomberg spoke briefly to attendees -- including members of the media, local politicians and executives involved in the cruise terminal project -- before handing the podium over to Markowitz, who called today a dream come true. "I've been waiting for this day -- and not just because I love cruises, which I do."
Indeed Markowitz had a bit of a wait -- it has been a full year since P&O Princess announced its plans to relocate QM2, along with other Cunard and Princess ships, from Manhattan to Brooklyn. Now that Pier 12 is up and running, there are preliminary plans in place to transform two additional piers to accommodate cruise ships; Richard Larrabee, port commerce director for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, says work will begin on the next new cruise berth (Pier 10) in Spring 2007.
The Brooklyn Cruise Terminal is the first in the New York area specifically built to accommodate the industry's largest ships, with a deepened channel, reinforced moorings and second gangway.
Marlow and Captain Warner presented a framed picture of Queen Mary 2 sailing beneath the Verrazano Bridge to Mayor Bloomberg; Marlow and Warner were given blue-green Tiffany & Co. boxes containing crystal apples (symbolizing the Big Apple, of course). Markowitz offered up Brooklyn goodies like posters and T-shirts -- and in return, Marlow invited him to cruise in luxurious Queen's Grill accommodations, and to indulge in "as many buffets as he likes."
Princess' Crown Princess will be inaugurated at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal this June. QM2 will operate 20 trans-Atlantic crossings this year, and 22 in 2007; when Queen Victoria launches in 2007, all three ships in Cunard's fleet will call Brooklyn their home in the U.S. At this point, Brooklyn is expected to remain a turnaround port rather than a port of call. According to Marlow, guests wouldn't welcome just a few hours in New York -- "we have to bring our guests to stay for two or three days."
In 1776, when the British won the Battle of Brooklyn, the last thing George Washington would have wanted was to see the British flag sailing into view, joked Markowitz. "What a difference 230 years makes."