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Passenger Terminal Fight Should Have Been Over, Residents Continue Resistance
4/16/2015 3:54:09 PM

Kenny Riley
By Barney Blakeney

Opposition to building a new cruise ship passenger terminal near the site of the existing one on Concord Street in Downtown Charleston has resurfaced. This time with the support of the city’s planning commission.

The proposed construction became an issue in the city’s mayoral election four years ago and may be an issue in the November municipal election.

International Longshoremen Association union Local 1422 President Kenny Riley said his union is adamantly opposed to renewed efforts to relocate the proposed new building at the State POrt Authority’s Union Pier in the peninsula's Historic District. The pier has been a docking site for ships coming into Charleston harbor for more than 200 years.
The city’s planning commission last month voted for a new tourism management plan with the recommendation the site for the proposed passenger terminal be relocated. Riley said that’s a battle which has been fought and lost.

In 2011 former Charleston Sen. Robert Ford and mayoral candidate William Dudley Gregorie supported the relocation from the historic Charleston community to a site north of Columbus Street. Ford reversed his position.

The new port facility proposed by the S.C. State Port Authority in a partnership with the City of Charleston that would accommodate cruise ships calling at Charleston’s port, means jobs for the predominantly Black longshoremen’s union workers and economic opportunities to the community, Riley says.

The Charleston port facility, once the nation’s fourth largest and most productive, remains one of the most important economic forces in the region. But to accommodate affluent residents of the historic districts most port functions, especially container and bulk cargo shipping, has been moved to the Wando and North Charleston facilities. The proposed new $35 million facility near Waterfront Park would replace the current terminal built in 1973.

Riley said there has been a proposal to relocate the new terminal near the Arthur Ravenel Bridge’s Charleston landfall. Additionally opponents want height and ship length limits on cruise ships calling the Charleston port. Relocating the terminal takes the terminal out of the historic district to the all-Black Cooper River Court public housing complex, a move Riley says could jeopardize the port’s agreement with Carnival Cruise Lines.

Passengers want to be near downtown shops, hotels and restaurants, he said. But more importantly, the Carnival name brand represents fun vacations and the company may not want to be associated with the controversy that has arisen in Charleston.

Residents of Charleston’s historic districts say the ships bring unwanted tourism and environmental impacts. A lawsuit was filed against Carnival Cruise Lines to prevent the ships docking in Charleston by the Ansonborough and Charlestown neighborhood associations. Riley said council members who support their position are not serving the best interest of the general community by catering to special interest.

Other lawsuits were filed by environmental groups as well. Riley said the proposal weathered those storms. Special interests have opposed the development of port options irrationally, Riley said. Residents of the Historic District are among the most elite in the city.

Their unfounded objections amount to classism, he said. He vowed that any mayoral candidate in the November election opposing the construction at Union Pier will meet the influence of the longshoremen’s union head on.

Ford said he thought the new terminal already had been built and that the fight to relocate it was done. Though he no longer holds office, he still supports the new terminal at the appointed site.

“Those people downtown will just have to bite the bullet,” he said. “People need the jobs and business the cruise ships bring. If residents downtown persist, that business will go where they’ll have less headaches. There are just too many jobs at stake.”

Outgoing Mayor Joseph Riley said he continues to support the terminal’s location in the historic district.

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