7 Reasons why the SPA’s proposed cruise terminal must be moved-

Quote: “The problem with cruises is that they can be the strip mine of tourism.”(1) –Jonathan B. Tourtellot, a National Geographic fellow and founding director of the Center for Sustainable Destinations.

Charleston will soon make a decision that will impact its future for the next 100 years. This decision will propel Charleston into one of the great cities of the world, or, very likely, mark the beginning of its slow decline. Most do not understand the dangers, and that’s understandable. The forces for the status quo are in powerful positions and have unlimited financial resources. Those opposed, non-profits, associations, and individuals have neither. But those who want to protect and wisely develop Charleston have the issues on our side. Take a moment to read some of them–the 7 Reasons why the SPA’s proposed cruise terminal must not be built at Union Pier.

1) Congestion, confusion, pollution. The noise, soot, and air pollution from toxic bunker fuel are all documented health risks; cruise ships spew four times the emissions of cargo ships.(2,3) Then there’s the vehicle and passenger congestion and diminished property values near the terminal. This is just a sampling of “deposits” to Charleston from the “Fantasy,” Carnival’s home-ported cruise ship, and port-of-call ships. But the State Ports Authority (SPA) can’t be bothered by serious health risks and has no intention of installing plug-in shore power to mitigate pollution; Carnival also remains unresponsive.(4, 4a) As cruise ships continue to increase in size,(5) these problems will get worse before they get better (if they ever do). Venice, sadly, has become cruise ship tourism tragedy.(1,6,7)

2) Asymmetrical impacts adverse to Charleston. Traffic and passenger congestion, street closures, using expensive police time…these detriments fall on Charleston residents and taxpayers as cruise ship passengers tumble onto the streets, ignore lights and cars, to buy their T-shirts and ice cream cones before being herded onto the “Fantasy,” where they spend their real money with Carnival.(8) The recent Miley Study shattered the illusion that home-port passengers spend a lot and bring millions into the local economy: “Fantasy” cruise passengers only spend $66 a day vs. $718 a day for traditional tourists.(9) That’s because each ship is a vertical monopoly–passengers pre-pay for room and board only to be enticed by extra-cost on-board amenities (drinks, gambling, spas, theme restaurants, excursions, etc.); budget passengers are left with too little money and no incentive to spend it here.(10) There’s more bad news: Charleston doesn’t get passenger tax revenue from Carnival or property tax revenue from the SPA! So with Charleston suffering the adverse impacts, who gets the dough? The SPA grabs the money from passenger and parking fees, and the $79-a-night hotels in N. Charleston bag most of the overnight stays (where passengers often get free weekly parking and a free shuttle to the terminal).

3) Where’s that SPA study of alternative cruise terminal sites? It’s a myth that most people cruising on Carnival “Fantasy” from Charleston want to visit Charleston. Most embarking passengers could do that anytime, and some have, as most live in surrounding states. Yet they’re forced to drive their cars downtown where they’re unleashed into a small, historic downtown area even as their goal is to sail away, have a few drinks, hit the casiinos and the Caribbean. Surely a cruise terminal location at the Columbus Street Terminal, Patriot’s Point, or in North Charleston would provide better access to highways, provide less expensive parking and more room for cruisers to load and unload, along with more room for busses, tour excursion vendors, provisioning trucks, etc. Before proceeding on an ill-conceived Union Pier cruise terminal site, the SPA must be forced to study and weigh air quality, noise pollution, water quality, and coastline impacts, as well as traffic and transportation requirements, construction impacts, in addition to the long-term effects of this proposed project on historic buildings, homes and gardens downtown, and Charleston’s quality-of-life. So where is that study?

Jonathan Tourtellot, quoted above, warns “Cruise ships can flood a city with people who are not necessarily interested in the place, and it becomes a turn-off to other tourists and locals. The most egregious case in the U.S. is Key West, but it’s a pattern we’ve seen repeated in Dubrovnik and Venice.”(1) The National Trust for Historic Preservation put Charleston on “Watch status”; the World Monuments Fund, the Preservation Society, and the Historic Charleston Foundation, to name a few, have issued similar warnings about unbridled cruise ship tourism–especially from a downtown terminal. But the SPA and the mayor have ignored all the warnings.

4) Why no cruise ship regulations? The Charleston tourist industry is heavily regulated, including the number, size, and impacts from taxis, pedicabs and carriages. Yet, somehow, Mayor Joseph Riley claims he has no power to regulate cruise ship tourism, adding, “Nor do I believe there is a need to.”(1). But then Riley promoted the passage of a toothless cruise ship ordinance through the City Council. The mayor, apparently, wants it both ways. And while the SPA says it will “voluntarily” limit cruise ships visits to 104 per year, two per week, and limit ships to 3500 passengers, it refuses to put any of that “voluntary pledge” in writing.(3) The SPA wants it both ways, too. The result: there are no cruise ship regulations, and there’s zero protection for Charleston. The mere fact that the dock at Union Pier is 1800′ long–enough to dock two 855′ “Fantasy”-sized ships simultaneously–would be a red flag to residents, but most weren’t shown the detailed plans for the terminal. That, plus the fact that modern cruise ships are getting bigger and bigger should provide a scary view into the future.(5) So…

5) Regulation alone isn’t enough. We’ve seen how easily regulations can be manipulated. The City Council should have passed a proposed regulation drafted by the Historic Charleston Foundation, but the mayor and council punted.(3) But even if regulations were passed, it’s hard envision the vast negotiating power of the fast-growing $30 billion-a-year, foreign-owned cruise industry. Carnival controls almost half of the cruise industry, and the power that an entity with that much money has cannot be overestimated; we need only to look at Congress to see the perverse influence money has on laws and regulations. Then there’s the horrific evidence of the irreversible damage that cruise ship terminals do to any city when they are located downtown. Irreversible damage is irreversible. That’s why the proposed cruise terminal must be located away from downtown as they are in Boston and other historic cities.

6) Charleston Tourism is exploding, even without cruise ships. The Charleston peninsula cannot grow; it is a fixed, fragile area; we can’t fill in more of the Ashley River. And they aren’t making 250-year-old houses anymore. It’s Historic Charleston that draws the traditional tourists. The glowing tourism magazine articles are a double-edged sword; tourists may think Charleston is like Disney World, but Disney World carefully regulates the number of guests it handles so all can have a good time. Charleston’s mayor won’t try. Yet reality is hitting home. After this year’s Bridge Run debacle, organizers were forced to cap participants at 40,000 for 2013.(11) But did you know that the Ft. Sumpter tour boats that normally carry 200,000 passengers a year took a record 328,000 tourists to Ft. Sumpter in 2011? And in the first quarter of this year, Ft. Sumpter tourism number is up another 11% over last year’s record!(12) The Preservation Society’s Executive Director, Evan R. Thompson, cautions that Charleston is “not unlike a rare pristine rainforest; only so many people can trample through without damaging it.” He added, “The fundamental issue is that we must sustain an environment in which people are willing to make enormous private investment in historic homes. That’s what tourists come to see,”(1) As the Charleston News Alternative’s Bryan Harrison once quipped, “When tourists come here and take a carriage ride, the horses don’t take them to the Citadel Mall.”(13) When will key officials realize what the Bridge Run organizers found out: The City simply can’t accommodate everyone? Charleston’s famed balance among business, tourism and residential quality-of-life is careening out-of-kilter.

7) Charleston must create a world-class development at Union Pier. Union Pier represents the most valuable waterfront property on the East Coast.(5) Mayor Riley extolled the virtues of a partial private development of Union Pier, “It will extend the street grid system into that area, with sidewalks and parks, and in time with new homes, offices, and shops.”(1) And that makes the very thought that the other half of Union Pier is to be wasted on a warehouse-like cruise ship terminal and nine acres of stagnant parking reprehensible, unconscionable, and financially irresponsible. Imagine the property and sales tax revenues, the construction jobs, and then the permanent jobs that would be created by the private, planned development of all of Union Pier! Now there’s an even bigger vision afoot(5)–first expressed by Thomas Bennett, West Fraser and, most recently, Evan Thompson: “Build a new, world-class performance and exhibition hall at Union Pier. A facility that costs over $100 million can and should be a highly visible and proud architectural achievement. A waterfront location would be spectacular. Rather than gut an outdated 1960s building lurking behind an Alexander Street parking garage, a new, four-sided structure can set the tone for the future of Union Pier and cement Charleston’s status as a 21st century cultural leader.”(14) We all know what the famed Sydney Opera House did for that city, lighting up the interest and imagination of millions around the world. Union Pier is a 65-acre waterfront parcel adjacent to downtown–there is no giant opportunity like this in any city anywhere else. Given the exploding growth of the Charleston area (17,000 new residents in just over one year)(15), the onslaught of tourism (even without cruise ships), and the need for more jobs and economic stability, how can we allow an arrogant, intransigent SPA and a reluctant, retiring mayor to squander the future of Charleston on a low-purpose ugly-warehouse-like cruise terminal with wasted acres of hideous asphalt parking lots when it can go somewhere else? We simply can’t. Carpe diem.



# # #
a) Public Hearing – Charleston Cruise Ship Terminal – Wed., April 18th at 6 p.m.
1) “Community: All Aboard” – Charleston magazine
2) “Is it worth spending $4M to save Brooklyn residents $9M per year in health costs?” A View from the Hook
3) “Why not Shore Side Power” – Post and Courier
4) “A plug for shoreside power for cruise ships” – Post and Courier
4a) “Ahoy there, Carnival” – Post and Courier
5) “A broken vision” – Jay Williams cruise blog
6) Cruise Law News
7) “Venice, Charleston share a common hatred of cruise ships, sort of” — Chris Cruises
8) “So what does Charleston Get” – Jay Williams blog
9) “A Tale of Two Studies” – Jay Williams cruise blog with cited sources
10) “Carnival to redesign, rename 15-year-old cruise ship” -USA Today
11) “After Saturday’s Debacle…” Post and Courier
12) “Visitation hits record level where Civil War began” – Fox News
13) “So what does Charleston Get” – Jay Williams blog
14) “Match Gaillard plan to Community” – Evan Thompson – Post and Courier
15) Charleston Metro Area is 8th fastest growing in nation – Post and Courier

National Trust petitions Supreme Court in Carnival lawsuit- a Friday the 13th editorial in P&C: “…Carnival has refused to be regulated at all. … And it has done so with the approval of the State and the City.”

National Trust petitions Supreme Court in Carnival lawsuit, P&C, April 13, 2012.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, considered the leading advocacy organization for protecting America’s historic places, is wading deeper into the debate over cruise ships in Charleston. The findings of this widely respected group warrant serious consideration.

Last year, the NTHP put Charleston on “watch status” for its Most Endangered Places list. Then it helped sponsor, along with the Historic Charleston Foundation, a tourism impact study to assess economic, social and cultural impacts that increased levels of cruise traffic will have on historic Charleston.

Most recently, based partly on data from that study, the NTHP has filed an amicus brief with the S.C. Supreme Court supporting a lawsuit filed by the Preservation Society of Charleston, the Historic Ansonborough Neighborhood Association, Charles Towne Neighborhood Association and the Coastal Conservation League. They are seeking legal limits to restrain the impact and growth of Carnival Cruise Lines in Charleston.

Carnival is the State Ports Authority’s largest cruise ship client, and with the approval of the city, the SPA is steaming ahead. On Wednesday, it passed a major hurdle as the city’s Board of Architectural Review approved the design of a new passenger terminal.

Next, the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management will decide whether to allow the SPA to set five pilings as supports for the terminal’s elevator and escalators. A hearing is scheduled for next Wednesday.

Some who want the industry to be subject to legal controls plan to object to the request, citing environmental concerns.

The NTHP concurs with the plaintiffs in the lawsuit that peninsula Charleston is being adversely affected by crowding, traffic and air emissions from cruise ships, and that Carnival’s massive ships loom over the skyline and block the city’s famous harbor views.

The city of Charleston, which attached itself as a co-defendant in the suit, contends that the plaintiffs do not have standing to join the lawsuit. NTHP lawyers cite numerous court cases to show that they do. The plaintiffs or people they represent have property in historic areas that are restricted by ordinances and are directly compromised by cruise ships. The lawyers also say that those plaintiffs have expenses related to cruise ships.

A hearing date hasn’t been announced.

The National Trust, founded in 1949, has more than 300,000 members and works with thousands of preservation groups in all 50 states. Over the years, it has recognized Charleston for its notable success in preservation and tourism management. In 2009, it presented its Preservation Honor Award to the city, the Historic Charleston Foundation and Page & Turnbull, Inc., for the Charleston Preservation Plan.

The city, which has delighted in accolades from the foremost preservation group, has brushed off the NTHP’s current concerns.

The NTHP, in its brief, notes that Charleston has, by law or private regulation, protected its landscape, architecture, building materials, church steeples, historic skylines and water vistas: “Unregulated cruise tourism, however, has started to jeopardize the maintenance of this fragile environment that generations of Charlestonians have worked hard to protect. Carnival has refused to place reasonable limits on the size and frequency of its ships. In fact, Carnival has refused to be regulated at all. … And it has done so with the approval of the State and the City.”

Some are framing this debate as whether or not to eliminate cruises to Charleston.

But it actually is about reasonable limits that are legally binding — limits that would help keep Charleston the place that the National Trust for Historic Preservation has heralded in the past and that residents love.

Charleston cruise ship terminal opponents prepare for next fight- an article in today’s P&C: “Having to get a permit for the pilings completely changes the landscape,” said Coastal Conservation League director Dana Beach. “We can open the whole project up to scrutiny.”

Charleston cruise ship terminal opponents prepare for next fight, P&C, April 12, 2012, David Slade. 

The plan for a $35 million Charleston cruise ship terminal received final approval from the city’s Board of Architectural Review on Wednesday, but additional challenges for the project lay ahead.

With the ink still drying on the board’s decision, opponents were readying for an Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management hearing next week, regarding a permit the State Ports Authority needs in order to drive pilings at the cruise ship terminal site.

The terminal would be created from an existing warehouse on the authority’s Union Pier, near Laurens Street on the east side of the peninsula. Several neighborhood, historic and environmental groups oppose the location, and other aspects of the cruise ship business.

Board of Architectural Review member R. Christian Schmitt said he believes the public will embrace the new cruise ship terminal “once they have the vision to understand what it is.”

Schmitt, who made the motion to grant final approval for the plan, said it’s appropriate that the SPA is renovating a “nasty old warehouse” rather than constructing a new building, because old warehouses are part of the city’s history.

The Preservation Society of Charleston had called for a new, grand cruise terminal, and the society’s Robert Gurley told board members Wednesday that the whole process has been disappointing.

The Preservation Society — along with the Coastal Conservation League, Historic Ansonborough Neighborhood Association and Charlestowne Neighborhood Association — sued Carnival Cruise Lines in June.

In the still-pending suit, the groups seek to block Carnival’s use of Union Pier, where the current cruise terminal is located and where the new cruise terminal is planned.

The city and the ports authority have stepped in to take Carnival’s side in the litigation.

The Board of Architectural Review regulates the appearance of buildings, not their location or use, so its process has been a small part of the larger controversy over the terminal. The board directed the State Ports Authority’s architects to make a number of changes during a series of meetings that began in August.

The lengthy review process played a role in pushing back the completion date for the new terminal by nine months, and ended Wednesday with a 3-0 Board of Architectural Review vote. Members Craig Bennett and Phyllis Ewing had recused themselves, and member Erika Harrison was absent.

Mayor Joe Riley spoke at the meeting, telling the board, “I believe that what we really now have is a fine building that graces the city.”

Debbie Scott, a member of the Historic Ansonborough Neighborhood Association board, had an opposing view, and told the Board of Architectural Review that more attention needs to be paid to what taxpaying residents want, versus visiting tourists.

The terminal would replace an aging passenger terminal located farther south on Union Pier, near the foot of Market Street. The new terminal location — currently an industrial-looking area surrounded by barbed-wire fence — was previously used for cargo ships.

Opponents of the cruise terminal plan believe the SPA’s need for a permit — in order to set five pilings that would support the new terminal’s elevator and escalators — is an opportunity to challenge the broader impacts of project, such as noise and traffic.

“Having to get a permit for the pilings completely changes the landscape,” said Coastal Conservation League director Dana Beach. “We can open the whole project up to scrutiny.”

Peninsula Task Force is still adrift on cruise-ship issue- Kirk Grant talks about “cruising to a disaster” in his recent P&C commentary.

Is the Peninsula Task Force up to the task?

I was very interested in the recent Post and Courier editorial encouraging the Peninsula Task Force to take charge of the cruise ship regulation issue.

The editorial correctly, I think, indicated that Mayor Joe Riley has not taken responsible action to protect the historic assets and residents of downtown neighborhoods.

The present “ordinance” is clearly a sham, providing no real use regulation as applied to every other tourist business, only a hope that if the State Ports Authority decides to increase cruise ship business it will consult.

The editorial encouraged the task force to consider reasonable regulations. I was a member of this task force for the last year, while president of Historic Ansonborough Neighborhood Association. Unfortunately, the task force is really not representative of organizations in the city.

It has members who were originally placed on the Task Force as representing a neighborhood. However, these individuals no longer are representative of their original constituency.

For example, persons initially on the task force from Ansonborough and Charlestowne neighborhood associations no longer hold positions in these associations.

Some might say because they do not represent the neighborhood at all, in fact sometimes having an opposite view of cruise ship regulation from the large majority of the neighborhood residents. But yet they remain on the task force.

Every citizen is entitled to attend task force meetings. But to have members of the task force who are not representative of any constituency is counterproductive to meaningful discussion and may be inimical to good results.

I believe The Post and Courier is mistaken that the task force, as it is presently constituted, can effectively assist the city in resolving the issues cruise ships present.

In fact, the city is cruising without a pilot, right into those problems the National Trust for Historic Preservation and World Monuments Fund recognized, as both organizations placed Charleston on watch lists due to the lack of meaningful regulation, such as the lack of on-shore power, allowing pollution from these ships, and other demonstrated problems.

Historic Charleston Foundation (whose director, Kitty Robinson, is co-chair with the mayor of the task force) has proposed a reasonable ordinance. But this was never even presented for consideration to the City Council. Why not suggest that this ordinance be revisited and hopefully meaningful regulation will result.

Unfortunately, with the composition of the task force membership and leadership, I foresee little constructive input from this group.

The editorial was only a wish: the reality is that we are “cruising to a disaster” without anyone willing to responsibly take on this issue.

J. Kirkland Grant
Charleston School of Law
Meeting Street

“Ain’t No Sunshine…”

Last month, Post and Courier columnist Brian Hicks penned starkly contrasting, back-to-back columns. One useful, one not.

“This is going to come as a huge shock, but South Carolina has flunked ‘corruption risk’ on its report card,” Mr. Hicks wrote. “We are one of eight states nationwide that received a failing grade in the State Integrity Investigation done by the Center for Public Integrity and some other groups. We got a 57.” More bluntly, South Carolina ranked as the 6th most corrupt state in America.(2)

Hicks cites “loophole-ridden campaign finance laws,” a toothless Ethics Commission, “a pension fund in shambles,” and a “legislature that has no control over a large part of the budget…” This worthy column includes the observation, “The problem here, despite all this baloney about transparency, is that this state is set up to allow a maximum amount of monkey business. The system has very few checks and balances, and we need them.”(3)

Here’s another example he didn’t mention. In 2011, The Nerve, a website dedicated to government accountability, wrote that the State Ports Authority (SPA) picked up a $29,000 tab for a three-day trip to Panama in September, 2010. “Besides covering most of the trip costs for the seven-member legislative group, which included two staffers, and eight Ports Authority staffers and board members, the Ports Authority also paid airfare and hotel costs for a representative of a Washington lobbying firm … and a senior vice president at the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce.” The other private parties paid their own expenses. The documents reveal that $1,600 [was] spent by the group on one dinner at a private club in Panama and another $1,440 was spent on books about the Panama Canal for the 24-member group. How do we know this? Because more than 100 pages of documents was provided to The Nerve by the SPA thanks to the SC Freedom of Information Act.

The Nerve noted that two lawmakers who went on the trip – Rep. Bill Sandifer, R-Oconee, and then-Rep. Harry Cato, R-Greenville – spent an extra day in Panama. The other three lawmakers who traveled with the group were Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley; Sen. Phillip Shoopman, R-Greenville; and Rep. David Weeks, D-Sumter. Grooms, chairman of the oversight commission that year, did repay $1490.47 in travel expenses from his “Grooms for Senate” account. “All five lawmakers are or were members of the Ports Authority Review and Oversight Commission, which is required to screen board candidates and conduct oversight reviews of the authority at least once every two years.”(4)

Then Mr. Hicks followed his useful first column with an officious diatribe, “When did we get holier than thou?”

“Charleston is no longer a sweet Southern belle — it’s an ornery old man,” Hicks claims, before railing against “some folks”…who “don’t like college kids downtown, can’t have tuk-tuks roaming the street, and they sure don’t want those infernal cruise ships. If they could send the horse carriages to the glue factory, they would. “And now, one single, solitary cigar bar is one too many.” Implying “snootiness,” Hicks attacks what he labels as the “‘No’ crowd,” saying “lately it’s just getting intolerant, and that’s no recipe for a vibrant city. During the cruise ship dustup, Mayor Joe Riley blasted these people who are against everything, pointing out that this is a living, breathing, working city — not a neighborhood.”

“Meanwhile, folks on the peninsula can’t even carry their wine with them on the Art Walk anymore,” Hicks rattles on, “Sure, the ‘No’ crowd wants to ban smoking and drinking, but they don’t even like tourists with black socks and sandals.”(5)

Hick’s unsupportable gross generalization is that anyone who opposes any issue downtown–say uncontrolled cruise ship activity–is, ipso facto, against everything. If that were true, the reverse would be true. People like Mayor Riley, who are all for cruise ships, must favor all the other stuff Hicks seems to want. But Mayor Riley has raised safety concerns about the doorless Tuk-tuks, noting that they “would contribute to a theme park atmosphere,” adding the police department is also against them.(6) The mayor is no fan of carting drinks from gallery to gallery during the Art Walk, either; he favors the uniform enforcement of the open container laws.(7)

Is it possible that people aren’t as simplistic as Mr. Hicks imagines?

It’s unfortunate that a columnist who advocates for government accountability would resort to a smoke screen of fustian and fantasy to belittle those whose views he opposes. We need only look at the national scene to see how unproductive that is. Charleston is at a crossroads. Rather than demean those daring to participate in public policy issues, we should encourage them. We’ve witnessed the SPA’s brutish tactics to propel a flawed proposal that squanders 30-acres of the most valuable downtown waterfront for stagnant parking lots and an expensive cruise terminal to be used mostly so people can sail away and spend money elsewhere. With such important issues facing Charleston, honest discussions are all too uncommon–instead, establishment posturing abounds.

On Good Friday, the Post and Courier’s front page headline read, “Growing Pains, Area faces hurdles in absorbing new residents.”(8) Metro Charleston is the eighth fastest growing area in the country, with 17,000 new residents in just over a year. Growth is changing Charleston’s future. The organizers of the “Bridge Run,” now capped at 40,000 participants, just learned that they can’t accommodate everyone downtown. The sooner everyone realizes that and agrees to work together to create a balance of what we can and can’t accommodate, the better.


# # #
1) Public Hearing – Charleston Cruise Ship Terminal – Wed., April 18th at 6 p.m.
2) “America’s Most Corrupt States” – Fox Business
3) SC Fails in “Corruption Risk” Tally – Hicks, Post and Courier
4) Ports Authority spends $29K on Panama Trip – The Nerve
5) “When did we get holier than thou?” –Hicks, Post and Courier
 6) Will tuk-tuks find a home on Charleston’s streets – P&C
7) Eat Drink and be Wary – Post and Courier editorial
8) Charleston metro area is 8th fastest growing in nation – Post and Courier

Match Gaillard plan to community- Evan Thompson’s commentary in P&C: “…please consider a few alternatives…”

Match Gaillard plans to community, P&C, April 8, 2012. 

Charleston needs a new performing arts center, and private charitable contributions to renovate the Gaillard Auditorium are a wonderful gift to our community. This gift also presents the opportunity to rethink how this ever-expanding project can be reorganized to improve neighborhoods as well.

Recently unveiled plans to create space for outdoor catered events and performances for up to 1,500 people on the auditorium’s Calhoun Street lawn give us pause. With the energy and financial resources behind this project, it is not too much to consider how we can take it to the next level without suffocating adjacent neighborhoods.

Preservation progress in Charleston is about protecting and improving neighborhoods. But the intensification of uses at a renovated and expanded Gaillard Auditorium, including a new 80,000-square-foot city office building attached to the rear of the building, undermines the residential character of adjacent neighborhoods.

Traffic and congestion already overwhelm the area around the Gaillard, and adding more is not progress. Pile driving will threaten masonry buildings and the scale of what is proposed trivializes historic houses and churches.

Before we collectively invest nearly $150 million in this project, please consider a few alternatives that might better position this public investment for a more widely dispersed benefit.

1) Invest in the Cigar Factory for city offices as part of an award-winning public-private preservation project. It makes sense that our historic city should have offices and meeting space in an historic landmark. It does not make sense to put city offices in historic Ansonborough. Upper East Bay Street is readily accessible to all city residents, and restoring the Cigar Factory would anchor the East Side neighborhood. The upper stories could become residential lofts and ground floor commercial space would add conveniences for city employees and nearby residents. A neighborhood would be given new life and it could stimulate the construction of a parking facility nearby that could be shared with Trident Technical College to ensure that it, too, can grow with Charleston.

2) Build a new, world-class performance and exhibition hall at Union Pier. A facility that costs over $100 million can and should be a highly visible and proud architectural achievement. A waterfront location would be spectacular. Rather than gut an outdated 1960s building lurking behind an Alexander Street parking garage, a new, four-sided structure can set the tone for the future of Union Pier and cement Charleston’s status as a 21st century cultural leader. It would improve the quality of a derelict Union Pier.

3) Create a waterfront plaza for outdoor performances adjacent to the new performance hall. Current plans call for the construction of an outdoor stage next to 75 Calhoun St. as part of a redesigned park that can accommodate 1,500 people for performances. A waterfront plaza is far more appropriate for this sort of use and would crown Mayor Joe Riley’s fine legacy of developing popular public parks on the Cooper River. The logistics of dueling outdoor events at Marion Square and next door to 75 Calhoun St. would otherwise gridlock downtown on a busy weekend in the near future.

4) Build a shared parking facility for the new cruise ship terminal and a new performance hall. A nine-acre surface parking lot is not the highest and best use of our waterfront. A parking garage at Concord and Laurens streets could be justified and would free up planned waterfront surface parking areas for the construction of a new performance and exhibition hall.

5) Incorporate the Bennett Rice Mill façade into the exterior of the new building. Whether attached to the new structure or stabilized as part of an entrance courtyard, this magnificent piece of antebellum industrial architecture can be creatively saved and enhance the redevelopment of the site.

6) Re-establish the neighborhood fabric of Ansonborough. There are modern buildings worth saving, but the Gaillard is not one of them. The site of the present auditorium and adjacent surface parking lots on Alexander and George streets could be subdivided once again into the single family residential lots that they had been for 200 years. The 40-year-old tree canopy along George Street would shade future piazzas rather than turn to mulch. New city blocks carved out by extending Menotti Street east to Alexander, reconnecting Alexander between George and Laurens, and extending Wall Street north to Menotti would ensure a pedestrian scale and reassert the street grid. The sale of the lots would generate city revenue and the property would go back on the tax rolls.

7) Dedicate “Gaillard Park.” The current green space at Calhoun and Anson streets could be improved as a passive park and garden for the enjoyment of all Charlestonians, particularly as an amenity for neighborhoods on both sides of Calhoun Street while continuing to serve as recreation space for Buist Academy students.

It is not too late to reconsider how a nearly $150 million investment in an auditorium, exhibit hall and city office building can be redirected to save Ansonborough, the Cigar Factory, the Bennett Rice Mill façade and Union Pier.

Let’s refocus our energy into making a new waterfront Gaillard possible while improving the quality of our downtown neighborhoods. It would be an investment worth celebrating.

Evan R. Thompson is executive director of the Preservation Society of Charleston.

P&C editorial: “Plug in to cleaner cruise stops”- “…Jim Newsome (SPA CEO) said…inferior option for our port,…not recognized as the standard best practice to reduce air emissions from ships.” (NOT AN APRIL FOOL’S PRANK-)

“Plug in to cleaner cruise stops.”  Post and Courier, April 1, 2012, editorial.

The debate about whether cruise ships should be required to use shoreside power boils down to this: Does Charleston want the cleanest air possible, or is it enough to breathe air that will be cleaner than it is now?

The non-profit group Charleston Communities for Cruise Control casts its vote for “cleanest” and the shoreside power that can produce it.


But Jim Newsome, State Port Authority president and chief executive officer, said it is “an inferior option for our port, and is not recognized as the standard best practice to reduce air emissions from ships.”

Mr. Newsome was responding to Dr. Stephen I. Schabel, president of the Charleston County Medical Society, who encouraged the SPA to use shoreside power to mitigate serious health problems that can result from exposure to ship emissions.

The fact is that, due to new standards, the amount of particulate matter emitted by cruise ships — indeed, all ships — is going to drop significantly.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ships within 200 miles of land will have to use fuel with no more than 0.1 percent sulfur by 2015. This is expected to reduce particulate emissions (sulfur oxide) by more than 85 percent.

Beginning in 2016, new engines on vessels in that zone must use emission controls that achieve an 80 percent reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions.

Those are advances to celebrate.

But with shoreside power, the air could be even cleaner. When a cruise ship idles at the dock, using cleaner fuel, it will still produce emissions. When it is being powered by electricity from the dock, it produces none.

Shoreside power also eliminates the vibration and noise of on-board generators that passengers, crew and neighbors are subjected to.

Shifting to shoreside power requires an investment on the part of the cruise ship company as well as the port. And it requires working with SCE&G to ensure there is adequate power at an affordable price. That is an area where the city of Charleston could be helpful — and should want to be. SCE&G operates under franchise with the city.

Unfortunately, the city has, so far, opted not to push the SPA to move to shoreside power.

Mr. Newsome is paid to look at the bottom line of port business. It is his responsibility to weigh benefits of shoreside power against expenses.

But the cost will come to South Carolina one way or another. The EPA says just changing to cleaner fuel should save up to 14,000 lives and relieve respiratory symptoms for almost five million people each year in the country.

For 2020, the medical savings should be $110 billion. Using shoreside power would save even more.

The SPA has made improvements to address air quality, including a truck replacement program so that more trucks pollute less. Mr. Newsome says the SPA is interested in curbing port-related air emissions.

So why not go one more step? Why not use shoreside power for cruise ships?

Calling on Carnival

2012 started badly for Carnival. What does that mean for Charleston?

Max Rossi/Reuters

“In the wake of the sinking of the Costa Concordia that killed 25 people (seven more remain missing) in January, a Senate panel…will look into safety, tax and environmental laws governing a cruise ship industry that carried 11 million North Americans last year,” said USA Today. “I believe we must ask why an industry that earns billions pays almost no corporate income tax,” says Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., chairman of the transportation committee having the hearing, adding, “The environmental practices of the industry are unconscionable.”(1) A couple celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary on the Concordia “riveted lawmakers with their description of a crew that refused to tell them the ship had struck a reef or to explain how to evacuate. ‘We felt very betrayed, very much lied to,’ Sameer Sharma said. ‘They were not honest with us at any given point.'”

Then the Carnival-owned Costa Allegra had to be towed into port after a fire broke out and the ship lost power in the Indian Ocean. The 1000 passengers and crew were without running water, showers, or air-conditioning; “The toilets were running over, there was no electricity. It was very hot,” said one passenger who ate cold sandwiches for three days and moved her bedding onto the deck to escape the heat in her cabin.(2)

Finally, 22 Carnival Splendor passengers were robbed on a ship-sponsored nature excursion in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico by hooded bandits who demanded “everything,” backpacks and all. Passengers “were stripped of cameras, watches and other valuables they had with them.” (3/4/5)

How did Carnival’s management handle these crises? “They’ve been passive, they’ve been defensive, they’ve been whistling past the graveyard” rather than confronting and controlling the situation, says Fraser Seitel, president of PR consultants Emerald Partners, adding that Carnival CEO Micky Arison has been “invisible” during the crisis.(6) In a March 10th interview, one of his first after the January 13th Concordia disaster, Arison said, “I’m very sorry it happened,” and defended his actions following the shipwreck, saying he stayed in Miami to handle all the company’s 10 brands in the aftermath and to avoid becoming a “diversion” in Italy.(7) The Wall Street Journal was less charitable. Its story, “Carnival CEO lies low after wreck,” began, “Where is Micky Arison?” The article questioned “the wisdom of Mr. Arison’s not taking a more public role in the wake of the worst cruise line incident in years,” noting the size of Carnival Corp, with its 101 ships that carry 200,000 passengers and 70,000 crew on any given day.(8) Carnival’s vast size, with $16 billion in annual revenue, is enough to keep the company afloat and, perhaps, allows it to be as unresponsive as wishes.

Carnival’s sheer size should trouble Charlestonians. It’s not just the tax and environmental concerns that Sen. Rockefeller mentions, or the lack of safety controls that the US has over foreign-flagged ships, it’s the power a company that size has over any potential partners–including ports and cities. Without warning and with little advance notice, Carnival pulled out of Mobile last year after home-porting ships there since 2004. Al St. Clair, director of the Mobile, AL cruise terminal, said, “It came as a real shock.” St. Clair said that Carnival never had a discussion with him about any problems, allowing the port to make any improvements, saying he could have worked with Carnival.(9) The terminal, named Carnival’s port of the year in 2007, was highly rated by passengers; now, because of the pullout, 125 jobs were lost and a University of Southern Alabama economist puts the city’s loss at $22 million. Carnival declined to give comment on why the cruise line did not give Mobile a heads-up that something was wrong before the pullout.(10) Carnival also pulled ships out of San Diego(11) and slashed visits to Bermuda to just one for 2012.(12).

Could Carnival’s bad year, its detached responsiveness to crises, or it’s sudden abandonment of ports impact Charleston?

Residents in Charleston are trying to engage Carnival, but without success. A Post and Courier editorial, “Ahoy There, Carnival,” asks why Carnival still hasn’t responded to the Charleston Communities for Cruise Control’s January 5th letter asking about gray water discharges or incineration of garbage within 12-miles of shore, or reply to its request for a limit on the number, size and frequency of cruise ships coming to Charleston. And since Carnival’s own brochure says it “uses low-sulfur fuels voluntarily while cruising near environmentally sensitive as well as historical areas,” the editorial rightly queries, “What about Charleston?”(13)

The SPA isn’t helping. The SC State Ports Authority (SPA) has refused to release any information about its studies on alternative cruise terminal sites in Charleston. Did the SPA even conduct them? The SPA also refuses to require shore-side power to eliminate the toxic bunker fuel exhaust spewing from cruise ships idling in port.(14) But as some cities have gotten grants to provide such power, and since Carnival has committed to using shore power in Long Beach, CA, why won’t the SPA require it to protect Charleston’s residents and tourists alike?

And given Carnival’s recent problems and history, there’s this key question: Where is the SPA’s contract with Carnival? And what guarantees are in it for Charleston?

The mayor, city council, and the SPA have ignored repeated requests to intercede to get responses from Carnival. When the mayor, SPA, and Carnival all refuse to answer reasonable questions, one can only guess why. Power and money can make reasonable people unreasonable. Is that the case here, or is there something that people in power don’t want us to know? If Charlestonians are going to get the answers they deserve, they’re going to have to crank up their own version of shore side power.


# # #

1) Costa Concordia Passengers tell Congress they felt Betrayed – USA Today
2) In Scheyells, Scary moments described aboard ship – Fox News video
3) 22 Cruise passengers robbed at gunpoint – CBS News video
4) 22 Carnival Cruise passengers robbed at gunpoint – Fox News
5) Gadling – Huffington Post blog
6) PR Crisis for Carnival after Danger on Cruise Ships – Fox News video
7) Micky Arison on Costa Concordia accident – Miami Herald
8) Carnival CEO lies low after wreck – WSJ
9) Carnival to leave Mobile; officials shocked, saddled with cruise terminal debt. – Al. com
10) A Surprise Ending: Why did Carnival Ditch Mobile with No Warning
11) Carnival Cruise Lines to Pull out of San Diego – USA Today
12) Carnival’s late notice on berths leaves Bermuda ‘disappointed’ – Travel Weekly
13) Ahoy there, Carnival – Post and Courier editorial
14) Go Green with Cruise Ships – Post and Courier editorial

“Ahoy there, Carnival”- P&C editorial: “…interchange of ideas worthwhile. Carnival has done the same for other ports. Charleston deserves no less.”

Ahoy there, Carnival,” Post and Courier, March 14, 2012, editorial.

The non-profit Charleston Communities for Cruise Control has asked Carnival Cruise Lines questions that warrant some answers.

In Carnival Cruise Lines’ 2010 sustainability report, the company reports on its efforts to be a “good corporate citizen” and “preserve the fragile ecosystems upon which we are so dependent.” Cruise Control members want to know how Charleston fits into their plans.

For example, the report says “Carnival uses low-sulfur fuels voluntarily while cruising near environmentally sensitive as well as historical areas.” What about Charleston?

It says Carnival has voluntarily adopted environmental practices in Alaska, California and Hawaii in order to “reduce smog and health pollutants” and “preserve coastal water quality.” Shouldn’t the same be adopted here?

It says Carnival has committed to onshore power for ships calling at Long Beach, a measure that would alleviate air emissions here as well.

And the Carnival report says the cruise line aims to “contribute to the economic growth of the ports in which we operate through the taxes we pay, the jobs we create and the suppliers we support.”

Cruise Control is dedicated to achieving the appropriate balance between cruise ship operations in Charleston and the historic nature and quality of life in the city. As such, it wrote to Carnival requesting the cruise line adopt the same admirable practices in Charleston as it does in other areas. And a few more.

Don’t discharge gray water or incinerate garbage within 12 miles of shore. Since cruise lines do not pay taxes here as they do elsewhere, Carnival should “voluntarily pay an impact fee of $5 per passenger into a fund for community improvement.”

Also, support the local and state economy by purchasing provisions locally. Avoid making loud announcements and playing music outside while in port as the noise reverberates between buildings and is disturbing to the community.

Cruise Control would like Carnival to limit its presence here to two cruise ships a week — none with more than 3,000 passengers and crew.

You’d think Carnival would be interested in burnishing its image given its recent problems — one cruise ship running aground in Italy and another being towed into port after catching fire in the Indian Ocean.

But so far, Carnival has not responded to the Jan. 5 letter.

In an open system of government, corporations typically can be called to account by citizens — and their elected representatives. But the city and the State Ports Authority appear more interested in running interference for the cruise ship company on the regulatory front.

Indeed, no one at the SPA or on Charleston City Council — not the port director or the mayor — has yet responded to Charleston Communities for Cruise Control’s recent request for help convincing Carnival to use its best practices here.

It was partly out of a sense of frustration that several neighborhood, environmental and preservation groups in Charleston filed suit against Carnival, seeking answers in the courts. Cruise Control, incidentally, is not part of that lawsuit.

The questions raised by local critics shouldn’t be difficult to answer, and all who live or work in the area — including elected and appointed officials — should find an interchange of ideas worthwhile. Carnival has done the same for other ports.

Charleston deserves no less.