NY Yards Bust: Marc Levinson’s The Box, 5: Battle for NY’s Port

Though New York City’s piers were inconvenient with main rail connections across the harbor in Jersey and the yards located inland, Levinson points out that they dealt with 1/3 of America’s sea trade.  The advancements by McLean Trucking and the Port Authority in New Jersey by way of Gov. Edge and then Gov. Meyer’s development of Port Elizabeth specifically designed for container cargo helped pave the way towards demise. The strikes in ’45, ’47, ’48, ’51, and ’54, the violent clashes between the Teamsters and the ILA, and rampant cargo theft also contributed.  The once thriving pocket community deteriorated along with their docks.

Levinson’s tale of demise is not one never told before and never told again.  Advancements in industry have drawbacks. MTA Metro Card machines have replaced many token takers.  Machines replace humans in factories.  Now the post office has a ship-it-yourself machine.  While machines did not replace longshoremen, the new, more convenient way to ship cargo did.  The container broke the breakbulk cargo cycle. 

That broke my heart.  In much of a fighting spirit, I fought for NY’s yards to prevail, even though this all happened in the past and the outcome is clear.  I can’t go back and change time.  But following the battle tugged at my competitive side.

While Brooklyn and Manhattan were the powerhouse for a while, it could not last forever.  The tales, however, live on.  That’s the sentimental aspect of these tales.  When they’re in it, the day to day life, they don’t know that decades later, theirs will be a tale to tell in a book, on a blog.  The longshoremen become icons, much like Rosie the Riveter, of a past that we look to for inspiration.

New York has recovered.  Of course.  It always does.  Perhaps that statement comes from pride.  Perhaps from love.  Perhaps both.  Brooklyn is the longshoreman, “rough and ready” on the outside, all heart on the inside. 

Levinson, Marc. The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2006. Print.


About Christina M. Rau

Poet, blogger, writer, editor, professor
This entry was posted in Brooklyn Industrial Waterfront, Docks and Shipping and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to NY Yards Bust: Marc Levinson’s The Box, 5: Battle for NY’s Port

  1. Pingback: 2010 in review | Rediscovering Brooklyn: A Local Tour De Force

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