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Stevedores using salt to be more appetizing, waterfront rival sez

A spice war is brewing in Brooklyn.

Red Hook’s massive pile of salt, whose contents were recently blown to nearby residential homes, actually has a suitor: its former landlord.

“The salt is a necessary evil. It provides our roads with de−icing, which saves lives and allows us to safely go to work when it snows. It just needs to be handled and stored at the right facility. Certainly, Red Hook Terminal is not that facility,” said John Quadrozzi Jr., president of the Gowanus Industrial Park, 685 Columbia Street.

For years, Quadrozzi’s facility held a contract with International Salt to receive its cargo. But the salt company vacated mid−season this year, “after being enticed by [Red Hook container terminal operator] American Stevedoring International (ASI) with more attractive rates,” he said. “Their only explanation was that they got an attractive offer they couldn’t refuse,” Quadrozzi said, adding that the company’s lease runs through August 31, 2009, so they continue paying rent.

“However, American Stevedoring may have been sacrificing the valuable public land for less to justify their unjust desire to monopolize the failing⁄controversial port facility. By filling up the acreage, ASI can create the false image of need,” Quadrozzi charged.

At one time, the city wanted to boot ASI from the waterfront, saying the company underperformed, and the property could be better utilized. But ASI marshalled strong support from local elected officials, and the plan was scrapped, and ASI won a 10−year lease from its landlord, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey last year.

“While suited for containerized and break bulk cargos (packaged items), bulk (loose stockpiled materials) should be banned from the this facility which is surrounded by homes and a passenger terminal,” Quadrozzi said. “Due to the ambient dust caused from stockpiling and truck load−out, bulk cargos should not be situated near residences where the dust will settle into people’s homes.”

He said he would “certainly entertain” the possibility of the pile’s return. “I don’t see how you can stick a pile that emits ambient salt next to residences. It’s certainly not something you want to do to someone you want to be nice to.”

Matt Yates, ASI’s director of commercial operations, apologized last week for any inconvenience or nuisance that the salt may have caused, but noted that it was an isolated incident. He reacted strongly to Quadrozzi’s contentions.

“We are puzzled by Mr. Quadrozzi’s statements. Red Hook Container Terminal has handled this important salt cargo for over 15 years. The particular importer who vacated John’s facility approached us, and the issues they seemed to be having there were operational in nature. Our terminal rates are [actually] higher than Quadrozzi’s. One can draw their own conclusions about what that means about the type of service they were receiving,” he said.

ASI officials claim Quadrozzi’s outfit lacks the resources major importers require. “ASI is a full scale port operation, which has attracted record cargo volumes since securing its new long term lease last year,” Yates said. “We would like to see John attract and keep more maritime commerce, as this is good for Brooklyn’s economy overall. There is more than enough business out there for everyone. As an approved port training center, we would be more than happy to work with John to help him get his facility up to the standards major international ocean carriers expect.”

International Salt said in a statement: “International Salt selects its import facilities based on a variety of factors, including expertise and quality of service. We are committed to providing excellent service to New York City and believe our choice of a major port operation in Brooklyn helps accomplish this goal.”

The company was a valuable tenant, Quadrozzi conceded, without citing a dollar amount that International Salt’s product was worth. The industrial park moved several hundred thousand tons of salt through its facility each year, he noted. “We did a very good job of running the facility in a fair and honest way,” Quadrozzi said. “That’s less likely to happen now,” he added.

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