Container Terminals, a large Brooklyn-based coffee wholesaler, signed a new 10-year lease on Thursday for New York City's 23rd Street terminal in the Red

Hook section of Brooklyn.

The agreement was important for New York, which is still the biggest import port for green coffee beans, although it has lost some of its predominance in recent years to other ports.Mayor Edward I. Koch and other city officials attending a ceremony at the 23rd Street pier Thursday hailed the agreement, citing the economic importance of coffee shipped to the port.

Jerry Ponsiglione, president of Container Terminals, said he looked seriously into relocating some of his operation to New Jersey. But he decided to stay in Brooklyn after he was able to strike a deal with the city and the International Longshoremen Association that made costs here for importing coffee competitive with those at other ports.

His company handled 500,000 bags of green coffee beans last year at the 23rd Street terminal, which the company had been operating on a short-term permit from the city. Green coffee beans turn brown when roasted.

In total, the company handled 900,000 bags of green coffee beans at its three warehouses in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn. Continental Terminals brings in two-thirds of all the coffee traded by the New York Coffee and Sugar & Cocoa Exchange, he said.

Mr. Ponsiglione also has plans to handle cocoa for both the exchange and importers. He is working with the city to begin operating a cocoa warehouse at the 39th Street pier in Brooklyn, possibly by the end of this year. It looks very promising, he said.

Continental Terminals employs 65 people at its 23rd Street operation and 110 ILA warehouse workers when the ships dock at the pier. Mr. Ponsiglione said the ILA agreed the company could use union warehousemen at the pier rather than deep-sea longshoremen, whose wages are much higher.

Various costs in New York, including labor and rent, tend to make it more expensive than other U.S. ports, the executive said. But his company's warehouse at the pier concept is designed to cut costs for coffee importers, he said.

Some coffee importers, many of whom are based in New York, are chartering their own vessels that call directly at the Brooklyn piers rather than using larger shipping companies, he said. They also save money by eliminating trucking and unloading costs because the warehouses in Brooklyn are on the pier, he said.

Other ports are less expensive but if we can get close, importers would rather have their coffee in New York, he said, adding that his company is familiar with selling the coffee at the exchange here.

The lease will mean $4 million in rent and docking fees for the city over 10 years, city officials said. Continental Terminals will pay the city $238,700 in rent for the first year, escalating to $455,850 in the 10th year of the lease.

Mr. Ponsiglione said the deal with the city was fair and comparable to what the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey charges for its piers.

Privately owned Continental Terminals, founded in 1976, had about $4.5 million in sales last year, Mr. Ponsiglione said. It handled shipments from 18 vessels last year, he said.

New York handled about 5 million bags of coffee last year from January through October, accounting for 28.7 percent of the total imported, according to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Census supplied by the New York-based National Coffee Association.