Port of Coeymans on June 4. Photo by John McIntyre / Spotlight News
COEYMANS — Powell and Minnock Brick Works ceased brick-making and shipping operations in 2001 along the shores of the Hudson River in Coeymans. This ended 151 years of production in the Hudson Valley of a material that served as the literal foundation of America and beyond. P&M was the last brick manufacturer in the state.
The demise of the once-thriving brick industry resembles the fate of many of the industries in New York, but this was not the end of the manufacturing and shipping legacy along the shores of the Hudson in Coeymans.
Today, a thriving hub of commerce and manufacturing has quietly emerged from the two old brickyards and looks to be part of the future of renewable energy production in New York.
The Port of Coeymans is tucked out of sight, between the NYS Thruway and the Hudson River, but its importance to local commerce is increasing by the day.
The 400-acre site, owned and operated by the Carver Companies of Altamont, includes a marine terminal to accommodate ships up to 750 feet, manufacturing facilities and staff, an industrial park, and a fleet of tugboats and barges.
In 2002, Carver Laraway and Elias Weis saw the opportunity to bring the riverfront back and beyond what it once was by creating the port.
“Carver definitely had the vision,” Stephen Kelly, senior vice president of sales and business development of the Carver Companies, said. “We have adequate resources here and he knew that there were opportunities downriver in the city and it really morphed from there.”
Since 2002, the company has put over $30 million of private money into renovating and expanding the port to serve the intricate needs of its clients and the port is all about fulfilling unique projects. In 2005, they built the 145th Street swing bridge by Yankee Stadium and floated it down to the Bronx, followed by the Willis Avenue Bridge to New York City in 2010 and have built two power plants on site for travel downstream.
“The challenge of space and lay-down area in New York City required made the construction industry start looking for alternative ideas for space,” Kelly said. “ We recognized we had the facility, ground force, tugs and barges that could cater to every need of the heavy construction, making it easier to do business with the Port of Coeymans.”
One of the highest-profile jobs completed at the port was the project to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge from 2014 to 2019. The pieces of the new bridge were assembled at the Port of Coeymans and lifted in place earlier this year, and the old spans and piers were brought back to the port to be repurposed as other bridges or disassembled for scrap.
So what makes this place able to do a build and float projects so well?
“Carver’s ability to problem solve and supply construction tenants needs from equipment, heavy dock capabilities and laydown area, and most importantly the ability to adapt, makes the Port of Coeymans a turnkey option in a competitive union/non-union world,” Kelly said. “We recognize the skilled labor force we have.”
Currently, Carver Companies is putting together a park for New York City that will sit on top of the former Pier 55. The pods of concrete and structural/stainless steel that will support the park over the river will be assembled in Coeymans and floated on specially retrofitted barges to the site. Once there, a crane will fit them over the top of the pier pilings at the Harbor. It will be a three-acre park with grass and trees sitting on top above the Hudson River.
According to the Pier 55’s website, it will “revitalize a part of Hudson River Park with almost three acres of new public park space featuring lush greenery and a diverse array of world-class arts, educational and community programming. Walking paths, rolling hills, seating areas and open lawns will give room to roam for visitors of all ages. A green belt of more than 100 species of trees will mesh with public art installations to bring a fresh new look to the waterfront.”
The job is on schedule with over half of the pods complete, but it is not without challenges.
“Finding and training welders for stainless steel and producing design and concepts to perform this unique and never-done-before project was not easy, as well as coordinating the labor and logistics to load into barges and transport to New York City,” Kelly said.
The port is bustling with other activities, like unloading ships of salt as the concrete and wire are assembled and loaded onto barges.
“The Port of Coeymans handles some day to day operations,” he said. “However, Carver prides himself on catering to the client and preparing solutions for any of their problems. The one-off tasks, not the repetitive tasks.”
From its foundation in brick to wind
The future, however, could be in New York’s offshore power potential. The state has put a high priority on the development of wind turbine farms off the coast of New York and Long Island. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has set a goal to generate 50 percent of New York’s electricity from renewable resources, such as wind and solar, by 2030 as part of New York’s Clean Energy Standard. Through this initiative, the state has a goal of generating 2,400 MW worth of power from offshore wind projects.
The turbines have to be built and assembled somewhere, why not Coeymans?
“We are conceptually designing and laying out the port to attract wind opportunities. We are gearing up our equipment by purchasing larger support equipment as in cranes, mijacks, etc.” Kelly said, “Also, spending time with developers and contractors to understand their needs. We have taken a trip to Europe to see how it has been done knowing the European ports are an industry expert. We are creating partnerships and alliances to support the wind project and specifically the heavy lifting.”
The proposed power projects use wind turbines that are more than 800-foot tall. This is much larger than land-based turbines seen in other parts of the state and the port is ready for the challenge.
“We are fully capable with the amount of real estate that we own,” he said. “Our business plan and port development has been to attract large construction projects including the Tappan Zee bridge project.”
The New York State Offshore Wind Master Plan (OSW) commissioned studies to look at ports and infrastructure as well as other details of designing, installing and maintaining OSW projects.
Part of the report, Assessment of Ports and Infrastructure, explains what facilities would be best suited to support these projects.
“This study identified and investigated 54 distinct waterfront sites in New York Harbor and along the Hudson River … Twelve waterfront sites and five distinct areas are particularly notable for their potential to be used or developed into facilities capable of supporting OSW projects,” it said. “Particular sites of interest include, but are not limited to, Red Hook–Brooklyn, the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal, the Port of Albany-Rensselaer, and the Port of Coeymans,”
The report also had a detailed analysis of the cost to build out the facilities. The Port of Coeymans would cost about one half the investment to make it ready. According to the study, it would take $149 million at the Port of Coeymans to serve the needs of OSW installations, while each of the other three ports, including the Port of Albany, would take around $300 million.
If the port were to receive a designation as a site for OSW, the port will not have to make many changes to be ready.
“No changes. We are prepared for the future. We have worked hard to develop an infrastructure capable of handling projects of this kind,” said Carver Laraway, CEO of Carver Companies.
As for the future, there are no set plans except the port will not stand still.
“It’s not about any certain idea or vision. It’s being capable and prepared for whatever comes our way. We love a challenge. Big or small we are the east coast choice,” Laraway said. “We do have a couple of ideas … but that, of course, is our competitive edge.”