Mayor Eric Adams put the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in the spotlight this week with confrontational efforts to relocate hundreds of migrant men there from a Manhattan hotel.

But it’s not the first time Adams has focused on the Red Hook facility. In 2017, as Brooklyn borough president, he pledged $2.2 million for upgrades to help better serve cruise passengers — which he said “leveraged” an additional $15 million pledge from the terminal’s private operator. 

At the time, Adams called the package “a game-changer for economic development in Red Hook and our entire waterfront, as well as the complementary impact it will have on businesses and cultural institutions across our borough.” 

His office produced a nine-minute video touting the deal, featuring an oversize check from his office. He said the money would allow the pier to accommodate bigger vessels than even the Queen Mary 2, its longtime Cunard cruise. “It’s hard to believe that ships can actually get larger,” he said.

YouTube video

This week, even as Adams visited the terminal and played ping-pong there with migrants, and as his team offered reassurances that heat and security were sufficient for those sleeping there, his Economic Development Corporation agreed to allow the terminal operator Ports America, Inc. to walk away from nearly all of its $15 million Brooklyn commitment.

On Tuesday, EDC’s executive committee voted to modify the 2017 agreement so that instead of having to spend the $15 million to improve the pier and install new passenger boarding bridges, Ports America is required only to spend $120,000, primarily to install WiFi in the terminal.

Instead, Ports America is newly committing to spend $15 million on constructing improvements at Manhattan’s Pier 90. 

A spokesperson for EDC, Jeff Holmes, said in a statement the move was an administrative action meant to align funds with the separate timelines it has for the Manhattan and Brooklyn cruise terminals, and will not stop boats from berthing at Red Hook.

He emphasized other commitments to invest in the Brooklyn terminal — including plans to spend $30 million over the next decade to enhance pollution-reducing electric power, the mooring system and other features.

“EDC is in the middle of a long-term investment strategy at both the Brooklyn and Manhattan Cruise Terminals which will support EDC’s work to revitalize and expand the cruise and tourism industries in New York City.”

He added: “Today’s action has nothing to do with the current use of BCT.”

Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Luxury Liners to Return

Even as Adams struggles to move migrants into Red Hook, the return of cruise ships, including a luxury liner, is just weeks away.

British cruise line Cunard regularly docks Queen Mary 2 at the Brooklyn terminal, last visiting Red Hook on Jan. 3 with its next landing scheduled for May 26. 

And there’s a new ship on the block: MSC Cruises’ Meraviglia will make its first departure from the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal on April 20, according to the EDC-managed page MSC’s website shows that the first jaunts will connect Brooklyn and Bermuda.

The Queen Mary 2 at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, July 30, 2015. Credit: Leonard Zhukovsky/Shutterstock

Adams said the deal would lead to at least 150 people getting hired for terminal operations, while EDC President Andrew Kimball projected the new service would result in over $100 million in spending across the city.

When EDC selected Ports America in 2017 as the operator for both the Brooklyn and Manhattan terminals through 2029, the company pledged to make $38.5 million in improvements across both sites. The Manhattan lease shows that the company also committed to work with the Brooklyn borough president’s office on efforts to hire borough residents. 

The document also shows that Ports America agreed to bring at least 15% of city cruise traffic to the Brooklyn terminal. In the 2017 Brooklyn borough president’s office video, Steve Lovesky of Ports America promised that the planned investments will make the terminal “much more efficient and passenger friendly than what exists today,” including by widening the “apron” — the loading dock on and off cruise ships.

Said Adams in announcing the deal: “For more than two years, my administration has been intensely focused on the revitalization of the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, and the working waterfront as a whole, envisioning a future where the port’s infrastructure and services are able to attract and accommodate the high level of tourism traffic that our borough is excited to welcome.”

“This is a win-win all around, particularly for the neighborhoods that’s here,” said Adams in the video. “You want a cruise terminal not to be in the heart of the city. You want it to be a little distance off so that people are able to come and go, because you are dealing with thousands of people.”