AAP NYC Workshop Reimagines the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal

drawing of cars and people on a brick paved street at night
A rendering demonstrates connectivity of the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal site with aspects of Red Hook and greater Brooklyn.
drawing of men and women walking and standing in an interior food court
A food court and shops occupy the terminal space in this rendering.
A rendering demonstrates connectivity of the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal site with aspects of Red Hook and greater Brooklyn. A food court and shops occupy the terminal space in this rendering.
June 3, 2019

Led each fall by Robert W. Balder, Gensler Family Sesquicentennial Executive Director of AAP NYC, the Land Use, Environmental Planning, and Urban Design Workshop is held in partnership with civic organizations or government agencies based in New York City. The project culminates with an hour-long presentation and submission of a written report to the clients.

One of the workshops undertaken in fall 2018, the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal Programming Study, focused on the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal (BCT) in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The client was the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), Ports and Transportation and Asset Management Divisions, with Andrew Genn (B.S. URS '89), senior vice president of Ports and Transportation; Max Taffet (M.R.P. '14), vice president of Ports and Transportation; Mike DeMeo, vice president of Cruise; and Serin Choi '14, cruise and public markets associate forming the client team. Students who worked on the project included Eduardo Carmelo Danobeytia (B.S. URS '19), Lucy Wu '19, Jie Li '19, and Jaynel Santos (M.R.P./M.L.A. '19).

NYCEDC is the city's primary vehicle for promoting economic growth and oversees and plans for the BCT, which opened for business in Red Hook in 2007. The BCT was designed and built as an international cruise terminal with the capacity to berth some of the largest cruise ships in the world. The terminal was opened to capture more of the burgeoning cruise business, which is predominantly operated out of Manhattan.

While cruise port activity is mainly seasonal, there are substantial opportunities to increase vessel calls and other noncruise uses to BCT during slow periods. However, since BCT is built for large events and serves as an international gateway akin to an airport, programming and public use on noncruise days can be challenging. "The BCT was adapted from a former bulk import and export pier and has some 200,000 square feet of flexible terminal space and a large parking lot," says Taffet. "The unfortunate reality is that the terminal can feel cold for visitors from land and water, and it's hard to understand how the site relates to the city or surrounding neighborhood."

The AAP NYC student team was tasked with exploring surface improvements (paint, fencing, signage, programming, and moving walls and operations within the terminal) as ways to grow BCT as a community and business asset. After conducting a thorough site analysis, examining relevant case studies, and interviewing stakeholder groups, the team recommended a comprehensive plan that would make the space more welcoming and promote wayfinding inside the terminal. Further, the team suggested additional integration of the site between assets of Red Hook and greater Brooklyn, coupled with better connectivity to nearby transportation, making the terminal less remote.

"With fresh eyes and thorough analysis, the students delivered an impressive final presentation," says Taffet. "Graphics produced by the team have served as fodder for ongoing discussions on how to make the terminal more active and welcoming."

"Linking the adjacent community to the terminal through design interventions and wayfinding was one of the compelling findings of the students' report," echoes Genn. "Having reviewed these presentations over the years, I've seen how the work consistently benefits the students by giving them real-world experience in responding to planning challenges in a setting that closely mimics what we do on a regular basis."

By Rebecca Bowes

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