Viewpoints

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
Charleston

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.

“Solution to Pollution is Dilution – at least for now” by Rick Reed, MD

Though some may see the Charleston County Medical Society Resolution for Shoreside Power for Cruise Ships as only a bandaid; for now the solution to pollution is dilution. Even though burning of cleaner fuels was required in historic areas of California and in Venice , Italy , eradication of dependence on carbon fuels, using alternate clean energy and initiating broad Green health measures are not in the near future. An immediate approach is to dilute the adverse impacts from air pollutants (“spread the wealth”) and focus on major offenders in local vulnerable settings. Studies of air pollution where high concentration is recognized show adverse health effects, including increased asthma, stroke, cancers, heart disease, and premature death. The risk is particularly high for children, older people, and people with high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, or chronic lung ailments. Consequently, those in the medical community with Environmental Health interests, recognize that the immediate need is to focus on unessential polluters, particularly where there is human impact – our harbor, our concentrated urban residents, our dock workers, our visitors. With a new terminal coming on line, this is a small cost with no Port retrofitting required, to obtain maximum local effect. This is an opportunity for shared expense by a highly profitable offender and a State entity with most to gain. Energy providers should kick in. Focus on the Cruise industry is not personal but practical.
While ideally we should eliminate all offending sources, as was the intent of the 2008 Resolution, we do have economic dependence on diesel burning industry and it is practical to focus on low hanging fruit. The physicians interested in this problem have come together to advocate shore side electric power.

Rick Reed, MD

Sent via email to C4

 

“Pollution’s cost”- a letter to the editor in P&C from William Prioleau, MD

The list of diseases associated with pollution just got longer. In addition to asthma, heart attack, stroke, lung cancer, premature delivery and blood clots in the legs, it now includes dementia (Archives of Internal Medicine, February 2012).

While installation of dock-side electricity for cruise ships is expensive, the economic burden of uncontrolled pollution is such that it should be a reasonable decision to proceed.

William Prioleau, M.D.
Middle Street
Mount Pleasant

Published in P&C, March 1, 2012.

Comments from Fripp Island, SC

We are homeowners at Fripp Island, and frequent visitors to the beautiful city of Charleston. We are aware of the prospect of cruise ships gaining more access to the historic harbor, and are very distressed. We know concerns have been expressed by the Historic Charleston Foundation, the Preservation Society of Charleston, two neighborhood associations, the World Monuments Fund, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and numerous citizens, business groups, taxpayers and others.

Despite this, the State Ports Authority is going ahead with its plans for a cruise terminal with no deference to these groups and individuals and their concerns about pollution, congestion, stress on the historic fabric and livability of the city or studying other locations for the cruise terminal itself.

We join others in asking for help from the state Legislature to rein in the SPA to make it responsive to its duty to weigh the negative impacts of its operations, along with the potential positive ones, on residents and to be responsible as a government agency to serve the people.

Robert Underwood
Susan Underwood
Flying Fish Road
Fripp Island

Also published in The Post and Courier, November 10, 2011, “Curtail Cruises”- 

 

Comments from Tennessee

My wife and I have visited Charleston several times over the past few years. We love the walks around the Battery and the historic district looking at the beautiful homes.

When we first heard of Carnival Cruise lines coming to Charleston, we were both excited. We even cruised out of Charleston on the Fantasy in 2010 after staying at the Harbourview Inn a couple of days. We have cruised with them several times in the past and thought it was great to leave out of Charleston.

We came back to Charleston in July of this year to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary at the Harbourview Inn.

We arrived on a day that the Fantasy was in port. Meeting Street was a complete nightmare. It took over 30 minutes after getting off at Meeting Street just to get to Vendue Range. It was almost like a lightbulb turned on in our vehicle. We both agreed that while we love cruises, we love Charleston even more. When we turned down Vendue and saw the pretty fountain at Waterfront Park, it was dwarfed by the Fantasy. The ship stuck out like a sore thumb.

The black smoke coming out of the funnel didn’t help matters much. We checked in our hotel and then walked to Market Street for lunch. It was noticeably more crowded but we didn’t notice a lot of people shopping.

We hope that your beautiful city doesn’t do like Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge have done in the Smokies. Both cities started letting cheap T-shirt shops and arcades come into the city. This completely overshadows the beautiful mountains that we have.

People who cruise could care less the exact location of the port in the departure city. They are concerned about ample parking and getting through the boarding process.

Todd Shaver
Natalie Shaver
Willard Way
Blaine, Tenn.

Also published in The Post and Courier, November 3, 2011, “Cruise Lessons”-

 

Comments from Illinois

Hello, I am from Illinois and my family loves the beautiful and historic city of
Charleston.  Pass this on to anyone who can vote on this matter.  We love to
visit the city for it’s distinctive charm…which we think would be damaged if
these monster ships take residence there.  I have read that the industry
activity has picked up there in the last year and I thought what a shame.  I am
all for progress in economic development but at what cost?  I urge the city
fathers to vote against allowing the city to be taken over by these giants.  I
really do feel tourism could be hurt because I think people like us make return
visits to experience a more gracious time period that mingles with modern times
in the right balance.  The ground on which the blueprint of this independent
nation started should not be trampled on by commercialism…if we do not
preserve our past where is our future?
SJJ

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