Our City Council Waterfronts Testimony on Boating Safety in NYC

Our City Council Waterfronts Testimony on Boating Safety in NYC

With some regret, our testimony to the City Council committee on Waterfronts in support of increasing safety on the city's waterways suggests that it is time to propose some new regulations.

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Volunteers needed! Moving more vintage marine stuff! We need to wrap this up 11/17!

Volunteers Needed for Weekend 2

Saturday 11/15/14 9am-5pm
Sunday 11/16/14
9am-5pm
Pier 9B, Red Hook Container Terminal, Brooklyn, 11231
Thursday and Friday, depending on crew availability

Free pizza in return!

Lunch and pizza at end of day is on us. We can eat in the galley by the vintage stove or head to a local pizzeria; the work crew will vote to decide.

Location, RSVP info

Enter port gate at Hamilton Avenue, Summit and Van Brunt Streets
Photo needed to enter. TWIC card holders especially appreciated!
RSVP by emailing portsidenewyork@gmail.com or calling 917-414-0565.  If your tug is standing by and you're bored, you are welcome to tie up alongside and pitch in!

Progress so far

An INCREDIBLE amount of work has been done by POWERHOUSE  volunteers, many of them who have taken time away from their own ship projects (be they not-for-profit or for profit vessels). There was great spirit and good humor while tons of steel were moved.  Many thanks to you all!

Work done on Friday 11/7/14

Stevedore boss Sal came down the pier with other stevedores from the Pier 9B gang and hung another tire fender for us. Then, zip, zip, zip, with two forklifts they took all the stuff out of the shed that we thought we could move over the weekend. Thanks, guys!

Work done on Saturday 11/8/14

Saturday 11/8/14, we had a very experienced work crew: Matt Perricone, Paul Strubeck, Amy Bucciferro, Christine Van Lenten, Mike Abegg, David Sharps, Peter Rothenberg and me, Carolina Salguero. Shipcat Chiclet loves projects like this and kept a close eye on all human endeavors. She is no dumb bunny, so she stays away from anything raised on boom or hoist and prefers to watch rigging from the pier. Activities in the shed, such as crate inspection and lumber moving, attracted her focused attention.

What

What we were moving and saving with this big project is artifacts from several significant Red Hook maritime businesses which closed in 2005, marking the end of an era: Todd Shipyard, Cowhey Brothers, and RMC Canvas and Rope, along with some odds and ends from here and there. 

The artifacts include an array of marine hardware that will be used to explain rigging (over a span of decades) via a collection of diverse blocks, shackles, and turnbuckles. There are parts from WWII Liberty Ships, rope fenders; foundry molds, crates and crane plaques from the bridge cranes at Todd; a scale and line measuring device from Cowhey's, and more. Also, being moved are our event supplies (outdoor tables and chairs, signs, and sundry whatevers we use now and again such as Frank Hanavan's great costume version of the schooner PIONEER.)

Some large items of great importance to us include replacement parts of the engine on the MARY A. WHALEN, visible in the photo at right.

Paul Strubeck pulling out some pistons while Mike Abegg wears part of our Operation Christmas Cheer paraphinalia.

Paul Strubeck pulling out some pistons while Mike Abegg wears part of our Operation Christmas Cheer paraphinalia.

The marine business is so competitive that when the MARY A. WHALEN went out of service in 1994 due to a scored crankshaft, Eklof took the pistons, heads and rods out of the engine so that her buyers, Hughes Marine and Reinauer Transportation, dba Erie Basin Associates, could not repair the tanker and put her in competitive service. Just in case, Ekloff made them sign a covenant saying "we will not use the MARY A. WHALEN for fuel delivery service." She became their floating office, and a floating dock.

In 2008, PortSide NewYork bought spare engine parts from another Bushey tanker that had made its way to Seattle and was being scrapped there. Those parts were, unfortunately, in the shed when hurricane Sandy hit and now need some restoration work.

On Sunday, we were heartened when Nobby Peers, an engineer specializing in restoration work, told us the pistons looked really great!  A few weeks after Sandy, we had pulled all the engine parts apart, and wiped everything down very liberally with WD40, four gallons of it!

The early birds, David Sharps, Christine Van Lenten and I moved things out of the forward engine room.

Paul Strubeck and Mike Abegg led the rigging and decided to not lift things aboard via whole pallet loads. Instead, they swung stuff over in smaller units, and got the big items out of the shed with a pallet jack. Peter Rothenberg preferred the hand truck.  Amy Bucciferro assisted in moving things on the pier and on deck.

Matt Perricone's Saturday job was cutting the segment out of the deck (which will be converted into a hatch) so that we could load into one of the cargo tanks, which kept him busy a good part of the day.  All tanks were vented and inspected before the job! 

We threw a diverse set of tools at the job: chain falls, the ship boom, dollies, a hand truck, a pallet jack, an engine hoist, muscle and ingenuity and quite a few jokes.

By end of day, we had the overwhelming majority of things on deck, including the big items, the replacement heads and pistons for the engine in the MARY A. WHALEN. 

Work done on Sunday 11/9/14

Sunday, we had another extraordinary crew with Nobby Peers, Dan Goncharoff, David Sharps putting in a second day, Frank Hanavan, Jenny Kane who called her rigger friend Pete Betulia who joined us in the afternoon, Peter Rothenberg, and me, Carolina Salguero. Walter Dufresne and Mike Weiss were willing but the flu felled Walter and an truck break down kept Mike away.

Dan Goncharoff and Peter Rothenberg started out in the shed, trying to get the ends of the con rods and the bearings unbolted from the crankshaft in the lower engine block that was bought as a way to get another crank shaft (which sadly turned out to be damaged too).  The nuts were seized, so Peter and Dan joined the work crew outside.

Frank Hanavan, David Sharps and Jenny Kane, and later joined by Peter Rothenberg, took on the task of laying down a plank floor inside the cargo tank.  They developed their own intense cargo tank work crew. David and Peter where in the tank for a long while, and then David and Jenny became the chop saw team, with Frank the rigger running block and tackle and lowering things down most of the time.

The cargo tanks are really impressive spaces.

Nobby worked mostly alone for hours, with an occasional hand by me, until Jenny's friend Pete arrived. Nobby's mission was to get the heads and pistons into the engine room. He drilled a few holes in overhead flat bar beams in the entry companionway and in the fidley to hang two chainfalls and a come-along, and then hopscotched the heads in and down onto the engine one by one.  The heads (from a 1951 engine) are  slightly different from the original ones that would have been on the MARY, a 1938 engine.

Once Nobby was joined by Pete Betulia, the pace on the cylinder moving picked up; and sometime after dark, they started moving pistons in.  Three of those made it to the engine room where Peter Rothenberg strapped them down on top of chocks he had cut at our on-deck chopsaw station.  The last workers left around 10pm.

And then, just as I prayed would happen a few days ago, a tugboat friend arrived and tied up alongside, and I was able to get a hot shower. The plumbing on the MARY A. WHALEN is not yet restored.


PortSide NewYork & hidden Sandy stories, ours & others

At the two-year anniversary of hurricane Sandy, PortSide NewYork is telling our Sandy story, a story largely hidden, like so many in Red Hook.  We believe our story offers hope and guidance for the future. That’s because our maritime perspective explains how we knew to prepare for Sandy, made us available to help Red Hook’s Sandy recovery, and is a knowledge base we want to share to make you safer from floods in the future.

PortSide NewYork was founded to help change awareness and use of NYC’s BLUEspace, the water part of the waterfront.  New York City’s area is one third water, and contains 29 islands.  PortSide’s goal is to create a place that will showcase what NYC’s waterfront can really be.  Our ship, the tanker MARY A. WHALEN, is an ambassador in that goal and our endeavor to bring the community ashore and the community afloat, the maritime community, closer together.  Here’s our Sandy story:

Please help us continue this kind of resiliency work and reporting. Buy a ticket to our fundraiser Tues 10/28/14 or donate

Sandy prevention: Saving a historic ship

Thursday, 10/25/12, 1pm, Sandy minus 4.5 days, PortSide’s crew said good-bye to a class trip of first graders visiting the MARY A. WHALEN and started hurricane prep, punching our way thru the list of what we did for Irene the year before. 

During the next four and a half days, we traded strategies with historic ships and modern workboats around the harbor. We all laid in food, water and fuel; tested generators; and moved our boats to safer places. PortSide curator Peter Rothenberg, shipcat Chiclet and Director Carolina Salguero are storm crew on the MARY A. WHALEN.  

The maritime community obsessively followed marine weather reports. “Grim installments are burned in my memory,” said Carolina Salguero. “At Sandy minus 1.5 days, we learned an 8-foot surge is coming.  At Sandy minus a few hours, I am readying for a 12 foot surge.”

Ashore in Red Hook, things were different. Sunday night, Sandy minus 24 hours, an email blast went out telling Red Hook which bars will be open and what movies are being screened.  Carolina worried, “Is the community ashore prepping for Sandy? Has anyone evacuated?” PortSide’s maritime world felt separated from neighbors ashore by more than the containerport fence. 

Peter Rothenberg was valiant. “When Carolina got word that the storm surge was expected to be 12 or 13 feet high, I had visions of the MARY tipping over onto the pier and emphatically agreed with the idea of securing a preventer line to the next pier 265 feet away.”

Due to preparations, our ship MARY WHALEN safely rode out the surge with our office aboard, enabling every form of Sandy assistance we delivered to Red Hook afterwards.  

Peter and Carolina came ashore on Wednesday afternoon to discover a devastated Red Hook, and immediately decided that PortSide’s urgent search for a publicly-accessible homeport was flooded to a standstill and that we would help Red Hook until waterfront sites recovered enough for us to resume real estate talks. 

Appreciation from Red Hook

Adam Armstrong, Pioneer Street resident and writer of the blog “View from the Hook” describes what happened next, “PortSide came ashore, quickly set up shop at 351 Van Brunt Street and proceeded to make a base - a visible and accessible storefront -  from where they could reach out, provide information, resources and assistance to their land lubbing neighbors, most of us who were desperately trying to recover from the immense damage that had been done to our homes and our unique, waterfront neighborhood.  Carolina Salguero and her team of volunteers co-ordinated clean-out crews and tradesmen to go and physically assist our residents, and they gathered and disseminated information about anything they though would be helpful - FEMA, legal assistance, insurance matters, Con Edison, National Grid, the Rapid Repairs program, etc., and provided a connection to our representatives in government. On many of these matters, PortSide organized meetings and reached out to our residents, and in the case of our street - Pioneer Street – Carolina co-ordinated the creation of a comprehensive contact list so that everyone on our block could share information and provide support to each other. It was - and still is - a wonderful way for the residents of Pioneer Street to keep in touch and get updates on our street's recovery.” 

What made that work possible was the selflessness of three people PortSide is honoring at our fundraiser on Tuesday, October 28 at Hometown. Victoria Hagman donated Realty Collective’s storefront and utilities at 351 Van Brunt, despite suffering extensive flood damage herself.  Park Slope electrician Danny Schneider walked into 351 and offered free labor. PortSide coordinated his work, and Danny reports that he inspected and certified 60 buildings and repaired some two dozen for just the cost of parts. 

Our third honoree, our Curator Peter Rothenberg worked both ends of PortSide’s recovery story, the prevention that saved the MARY WHALEN and the aid work after the storm of setting up and running 351.

Peter, Carolina and Dan Goncharoff of PortSide ran 351 for a month and then continued a virtual aid station and other recovery efforts out of view. In April 2013, PortSide won a White House award for Sandy recovery work, and in July, the New York State Senate honored our work.  

PortSide work transitions from recovery to resiliency

Carolina began attending resiliency conferences. Summer 2013, she was asked to become a member of Red Hook’s NY Rising committee to create local resiliency plans.  PortSide staff and interns did research supporting the committee (which includes bone, two, three, and four and several pages on our website) during the committee's eight months of work. 

One of Carolina’s NY Rising goals was to inject maritime issues into the discussion, hoping the State NY Rising process could influence a state agency, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), so waterfront infrastructure in NYC can be more repaired and built for both resiliency and everyday operations.  Carolina also proposed the solar-powered emergency lights for NYCHA housing which are in Red Hook’s plan and are being considered for other NYCHA developments. “I think the NY Rising committee work is good. Red Hook distinguished itself for what we put in our plan,” says Carolina; but plans are hidden assets for most people until they are built. 

Looking back on PortSide’s two years of Sandy-related work, for the sake of Red Hook’s planning better for the future, we would like to talk about some hidden Sandy stories of need and success we found in the course of our recovery and resiliency work.

Hidden Sandy stories of need and success

PortSide’s recovery work helped many people who don’t get media coverage and whose cases deserve more attention:  People without an advocacy group, without on-line fundraising.  People who aren’t comfortable using computers and needed Peter’s help to complete digital forms. People in mixed-use buildings that don’t fit FEMA homeowner funding guidelines. Renters who are not in NYCHA, and so are not in the media and political spotlights.  Seniors, immigrants. People whose divorce, estate and tax situations complicated filing for aid and kept them from speaking up in public meetings.  People who are private about their needs in general.

We learned that some affordable flood prevention was possible: The owners of Metal & Thread used a few hundred dollars of hardware store supplies to keep water from coming into their storefront and through the sidewalk hatch -- though their cellar suffered water leaking through the foundation from the empty lot next door.  Some tugboat crews saved their cars by moving them from Erie Basin to the second floor garage at Home Depot, above surge level.

IKEA’s contribution needs more attention. IKEA gave and gave and got no media coverage until the Sandy’s one year anniversary when their $250,000 investment in solar powering the Rec Center netted some articles.  

The power of connecting the community ashore and community afloat

Inland Red Hook is so disconnected from maritime Red Hook that the latter’s role in recovery is not discussed.  For example, Jim Tampakis’ business Marine Spares was significant in pumping out the Brooklyn Battery/Hugh L. Carey tunnel.  Vane Brothers provided hoses to the Hess fuel terminal at the foot of Court Street so home heating oil could be delivered. Both firms did that despite flood damage to their offices and mechanical shops.

PortSide feels the gap between inland resident and mariner is acute when we heard residents say “They told us to evacuate for Irene but nothing happened” and “I didn’t know there were two high tides a day.”  We conclude that people ashore poorly understand marine weather reports and don’t know where to get them.  

In comparison, mariners understand how to live with water, and how to prepare for hurricanes. They do the post-flood work of pumping tunnels, building ferry terminals and running emergency ferries, fixing bulkheads, clearing the harbor of debris so ships can import products as diverse as fuel, orange juice, new cars, bananas.  

To bring maritime voices to people ashore, PortSide plans programs to help folks develop coastal living and flood prep skills, such as educational events with actual mariners, exhibits, and creating a children’s book with our shipcat Chiclet as a resiliency narrator talking about riding out Sandy on the tanker.

Andrea Sansom, who founded the Red Hook flood mitigation Google group, sees the need, “We all love living at the water, and PortSide is here to help bring understanding to living with the water.”

Our ship is a great tool for this. Our tanker MARY A. WHALEN is now a maritime symbol of resiliency, in contrast to the tanker JOHN B. CADDELL, Staten Island’s symbol of Sandy, which went aground and had to be scrapped.

PortSide’s own Sandy damages

PSNY-Sandy-slide (9).jpg

A hidden Sandy story PortSide feels acutely is that of our own Sandy damages.  An electrical short left us facing thirty-five nights of relying on flashlights and one 15-amp extension cord attached to a little gas generator.  Sandy damaged the Sheepshead Bay house of our staffer John Weaver keeping him home for many months.  Everything PortSide had off the ship (antique crane, 60’ dock, electrical transformer, restoration engine parts, historic artifacts and documents, special event equipment and furniture) was flood-damaged or floated away. Our FEMA worksheet totals some $340,000, and we are still deep in that paper chase, starting six months late because we were misinformed that we don’t qualify. 

A massive Sandy effect on PortSide was the stalling of our urgent search for a homeport.  We need a place to fulfill our mission, earn revenue, and run programs. Resumption of real estate negotiations took many, many more months than we expected, and remains a major strain on PortSide.

PortSide is now focused on the future while celebrating the good in recovery. Come join us in that spirit at our fundraiser on Tuesday, October 28 at Hometown Bar-B-Que. Join us in honoring our partners in Red Hook’s Sandy recovery: Victoria Hagman of Realty Collective, Danny Schneider the electrician, and Peter Rothenberg.  Wear festive MARY WHALEN red and white.  We look forward to talking with you there and, going forward, continuing the work we’ve collectively begun after Sandy in understanding our waterfront in all its complexity and potential!

World-war-II-merchant-mariners-still-seek-recognition

Request to Veterans affairs Committees of Senate and House regarding bills HR 2189 & S 1361

Women, children and disabled WWII merchant mariners

Friday, 10/18/13, out of the blue, PortSide received an email from Don Horton looking for help acknowledging the work of women, children, and elderly handicapped seamen who he says served on tugs and barges along the coast under threat of attacks by German U-boats. Don Horton, a retired Director of Occupational Safety & Health for the Department of Defense, is seeking urgent support for two bills before the US Congress which would recognize the service of these mariners. Recognition honors recipients and gives them the status of US veteran with benefits limited to medals and burial benefits.

The Senate is likely to vote on October 30th, and the House could vote at any time.

[see 10/29 and 10/30 updates about Congressional votes and 11/2/13 MoveOn.org petition at bottom]

He seeks letters of support to the congressmen on the Veterans Affairs Committees. Horton says the seamen, whose records were destroyed by government order, are another category seeking recognition. Able-bodied, adult, male seamen were recognized in 1988. The Senate is likely to vote on October 30th, and the House could vote at any time. The extraordinary story of these mariners also shines a light on the waterfront history of Red Hook, of Brooklyn and of the port of New York as a whole.

Horton was one of those children who served on tugs and barges along the coast under threat of attacks by German U-boats. Don Horton is originally from Pennsylvania and now lives in North Carolina.  He began working on a coastwise barge as a ten-year-old alongside his family in 1942; and his mother was one of those women.

Read Don Horton's vivid WWII memories of anchoring off Red Hook, Brooklyn and rowing into Erie Basin to shop on Van Brunt Street.

 Dear Fellow Mariners,

Once again I am reaching out to my fellow seafarers in hopes of finding some who may be interested in helping us find those few remaining mariners from WW II. Many of those mariners were women, some were schoolchildren that stood up for this country and also helped to lay the foundation for women seafarers around the world.
We now have a bill in both sides of congress.  It has taken over 5 years and three sessions of congress and this may be our last chance to bring recognition to these few remaining mariners.  The setup is rather complicated and far from me to truly understand.
 
If you recall we started out with a stand alone bill HR 1288 but during the process it was incorporated into another one 2086 headed up by Tina Titus of NV.  Within a week it was incorporated into still another HR 2189 that deals with problems within the VA.  This bill is headed up by Jeff Miller of FL who also is the Chair of the House Vets Committee and has cleared the subcommittee and is at the floor level waiting hearings. S-1361 is heading for hearing in the Committee late this month.  Both bills have few cosponsors and I have no idea if that is good or not.  I had 94 cosponsors on HR 1288 and was incorporated into 2086 that had only 12 and then into 2189 with only 4. I have added 4 more to 2189 but have hit a snag.  Seems that most of our leaders in congress may say they reach out across party lines but when it get down to doing it the lines grow silent.
 
In any case we are farther along than ever before but need some help.  As I recall in my email of last year I indicated we needed letters sent out to the various members of congress asking for their support either by cosponsoring these two bills or having the VSO write letters of support to the two committees saying the same.  We need similar help and I am again reaching out to you for help in helping those that came before you.  Will you help me? I have submitted some testimony to the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs that provides some light on how I see picture and asked it be submitted for the record.  They have acknowledged receipt and mention they will review.  I have attached it to share with you in hopes you can find enough info to assist in sending some good ole letters or make some calls.
 
Will you help us?  The time is very short as the Senate meeting is scheduled for the last of this month.  The House vote can be at any time.  Please let me know if you can help.  Thanking you in Advance.
 
Good luck at your meeting also at the end of the Month.
 
My very Best Regards,
 
Don...

 
J. Don Horton,
President WWII Coastwise Merchant Mariners
104 Riverview Ave, Camden, NC 27921
252 336 5553

Peterson. BELOW: The tug “Margaret Sheridan”, of the D.T Sheridan Co., hauls a company tow eastward through Cap Cod Canal in the late 1940’s. The barges are empty with tow lines shortened up for the tow through the canal. The lead barge was undoubtedly at onetime a schooner barge and probably had three masts.
Photo courtesy of Roy Eliassen

Horton's older brother Billy was working on the tugboat Menominee when it was shelled and sunk nine miles off the coast of Virginia on 31 March, 1942 by German U-boat 754. 

Letters of support: 

Association of the United States Navy 

Disabled American Veterans Department of North Carolina 

Italian American War Veterans of the U.S 

Military Officers Association of America 

U.S.N Armed Guard WWII Veterans Association 

U.S Department of Veterans Affairs 

11/2/13 MoveOn.org petition


0/30 update from Don Horton

RESULTS FROM US SENATE VETERANS AFFAIRS COMMITTEE HEARING ON 30 OCT. 2013 for S-1361 "WW II Merchant Mariners Service Act"

Military Officers of America Association: Supports S 1361

Disabled American Veterans: DAV does not have a resolution on this issue and takes no position on 1361. Note NC DAV approved a state resolution but National turned it down, essentially turning its back on WW I merchant mariners.

Department of Veterans Affairs: VA defers to the Views of the DHS regarding Section 3 of this bill.

Vietnam Veterans of America: VVA has favored such legislation conferring full veteran status on these individuals for almost thirty years, and now urges swift passage of this measure before all of them of dead and gone.

Veteran of Foreign Wars: Did not make a statement on S-1361.

NEXT STEP IS UNKNOWN. WILL ADVISE ALL WHEN APPRISED.

 

October 29 update from Don Horton

Dear F/B fans. Yesterday we were successful in having the US House vote and pass HR 2189. This bill had an amendment within, HR 1288 “WW II Merchant Mariners Service Act. It received an overwhelming majority vote of 404 to 1 in favor and the bill is now on its way to the Senate.

The next step is: tomorrow the US Senate will conduct Hearings on S 1361 “WW II Merchant Mariners Service Act”, an identical bill to HR 1288 that was amended into HR 2189. It is scheduled for 2 PM and can be viewed on C-span if anyone desires to watch. We have come a long way to correct a travesty ongoing for over 70 years.

Many thanks to all the cosponsors of HR 1288 for staying the course and seeing this bill through the House and on to the Senate. I owe you a debt of gratitude.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed to see this one also hit out of the park. Thanks for all your help.

 

Vote-for-tug-Pegasus-&-Museum-Barge-to-win-big!



Vote to fund the only boats in the $3MM grant competition from American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation that will fund sites in NYC!  
 
Vote for PortSide's friends and partners,the Tug Pegasus & Waterfront Museum Barge! 

Vote early and often!  Seriously! 

Vote every day from April 26 through May 21 at www.partnersinpreservation.com so that these two great historic ships can win a share of the grant money.

To make it easier to remember to vote AND to be eligible to win a July 4th fireworks cruise for two on the tug Tugboat Pegasus, visit the website of either the Tug Pegasus Preservation Project or the Waterfront Museum barge and sign-up to receive a daily reminder to vote and you will automatically be entered into the raffle. 

David Sharps (L) of Museum Barge,
Pam Hepburn (R) of Tug Pegasus
Support NYC’s floating cultural heritage. Vote for historic ships!  Let American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation know that boats count!  

The fine print:
  • American Express, partnering with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is committing $3 million in preservation grants to historic places in New York City through its community-based program, Partners in Preservation. 
  • From April 26 May 21, 2012, the public is invited to vote for its favorite historic places from a diverse slate of 40 sites in the New York City area. Everyone is invited to vote (one vote per person per day)
  • Guaranteed funding of $250,000 goes to the top three places, so get voting!  The tug and barge have been selected for this competition after a LONG process, so let's make it pay off!
  • Additional grants will be awarded to a number of the other sites after review by American Express, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and an advisory committee composed of New York civic and preservation leaders. 
School group visiting the Museum Barge


 
Teens from Chinese American Planning Council during
Maritime Adventure Program on the tug Pegasus
 
 




9/11 on Pier 9B

It’s funny how life works sometimes. 7 years ago, two planes flew into the World Trade Center, and 7 years ago I snuck into the Red Hook containerport to make photos of the burning buildings. 7 years later, I’m living on a retired oil tanker on the same pier from which I made a widely-published photo of the disaster (and Homeland Security funds have since built a new port fence that makes such sneaking-in impossible.)


I’ve been interviewed and awarded aplenty for my photojournalism work at ground zero; but up until now, I have refrained from writing anything about 9/11. What I’d like to do here is acknowledge the work of others who I think deserve appreciation.


First, starting with the personal: Many thanks and much credit should go to Debby Romano. She’d only steered a boat one time before 9/11. That was a few days before 9/11, when I was shooting Robert Buchet bagpiping on the tug Amy Moran at dawn for a long term National Geographic project. I told Debby to hold a course right off the tug’s beam and just outside the barge wake. She did it, and that ain’t easy in a 26’ runabout. I told her she was a natural.


When 9/11 happened, I called her boss Greg O’Connell, baron of Red Hook, and asked if Debby could get off work to join me on my boat going to the World Trade Center. The Brooklyn Bridge was already closed, I had tried to bike over it after sneaking into the port. He said yes. Debby and I watched the 2nd tower go down from the water, and we got involved in getting one cop from shore to the Sandy Hook Pilots boat just off the Battery. As I left her in North Cove and handed her my bag of exposed film in case I didn’t get out, I told her “When you dock, remember that boats keep moving after you decelerate more than cars do. Take that into account and also the wind; and so long as you approach the dock very slowly, you can’t damage anything, and good luck.”


With only that for experience and instructions, she got the boat home. She reported that, on the way to Red Hook, she passed a slew of tugboats steaming out of the Kill Van Kill -- some 20 of them roaring towards ground zero. More on them later.


I shot for several hours at ground zero, and went to go as I felt bad vibes (building 7 collapsed shortly thereafter). I spotted the tug Nancy Moran on the seawall and her engineer Gina Sikes, who I knew. Gina has since passed away, but still I’d like to thank Gina and that crew for their assistance in getting me out and for being friendly faces on a dark day.


I reached L&I Color lab in the photo district and had the weird good luck to have Kathy Ryan, photo editor of the New York Times Magazine, walk in as soon as my developed slides hit the light table. I needed the bag of unexposed film, the bag I’d left with Debby, and I’d like to thank Richard Dennis and other Red Hook friends who tried to get to Manhattan in my powerboat. The Coast Guard turned them back, so they gave the film to Joe Martin, a Red Hook townie who has since been pushed out of here by gentrification; and he biked over one of the bridges - after attempting several - to deliver the film.


As to the bigger picture, I’d like to acknowledge the tremendous role of the marine industry in 9/11. Their contribution on that day, and for the weeks and months thereafter, has not been duly registered, analyzed nor appreciated.


When Debby and I approached the Battery, thousands of citizens were crammed along the seawall. As I left ground zero on the tug Nancy Moran only 2 or 3 hours later, there were none; all evacuated by boat in what was a spontaneous, civilian-initiated operation. It began before the Coast Guard asked for it. Tugs, ferries, excursion boats, pilot boats, police and park police boats, historic vessels, dinner boats -- all sectors of the marine industry on all sorts and sizes of craft showed up and got people moving.


They sorted themselves out by size, the shallow draft vessels took people to locations with shallow waters. Boat crew sprayed bedsheets with destination signs; they got out torches and cut the (stupidly) designed fences of Battery Park City that had no removal sections nor cleats or bollards for boats to tie to. Tugs and then barges brought fuel for fire trucks and generators, and fresh water. Boats brought food from the Jersey shore. I remember standing knee deep in rubble and water on West Street and Liberty within an hour of the second tower collapse, shortly after a firefighter shared their grim estimate “we’ve lost 340 men,” to see a college kid coming out of North Cove pushing a shopping cart with snack bars, Gatorade and water. Hats off to the boats that brought that all over.


As the “rescue” period with its hope of survivors eroded into the “recovery” period with its goal of finding body parts, the marine industry soldiered on removing the rubble. Floating cranes unloaded trucks and loaded barges. Tugs took the loaded barges away. The larger steel pieces left from Pier 11 on the East River. The smaller stuff, which was really none too small, left from Pier 25 in Tribeca.


Mike Mazzei, videographer and diver who day-jobbed as a dockbuilder, put up a series of banners at Pier 25 documenting the tonnage and number of barge loads they removed. He shot the job and made a video.


Still, most of the media drove past the pier to do stories from the pile, then the pit, from firehouses, from city hall, stories about steelworkers, medics, cops, shrinks, priests and even photographers. Much of that media continues to chime that the working waterfront is dead. (A special Broken Record Award goes to the New York Times for reiterating that old chestnut.) Is the working waterfront dead, or is the media just blind?


Other media ignored the significant maritime story even when they had it. National Geographic considered running my tugboat project, with it’s unpublished content about the 9/11 marine evacuation, on the first anniversary of the attacks. The Director of Photography decided not to “since we have two other water stories in the same issue.” So, rather than doing a water-themed issue, they put meerkats on the cover — I got many an angry call from tugboat captains on that one. They never published the tug work and held on to it so long it was un-publishable anywhere else. My apologies, fellas; but you can see why I left the media biz.


But back to ground zero: When the politicians got around to concocting a ceremony for the last piece of steel removed, they didn’t include a tug or barge in the choreography. They put a huge beam on a truck and slowly rolled it out of Manhattan. The Pier 25 rubble removal crew watched as the departure ceremony started north of them.


Why is this all important?


Everyone should get their due.


We should understand what really happened.


We should be prepared for the next one.


We should understand where we live (an archipelago) and build to suit.


There’s been a whole lot of waterfront revitalization going on, leading to a rash of newfangled piers without cleats, piers too weak to dock a tug and barge, piers designed for pedestrians-only, silly piers whose planners want them designated “water dependant.”


We shouldn’t be doing that.


Not only because of disaster preparedness, but because the seam between water and land should be a porous membrane with people and things coming and going across it. Not only would that make the most useful (or what 2008 plannerspeak calls “green and sustainable”) waterfront, it would also make the most interesting and fun one.

And with that, I leave you all to your prayers and memories and your own rituals of thanks and acknowledgment. 9/11 was a public episode, but many of us have private ways of handling it. Today, this happened to be mine.


More on the marine role in 9/11:


List of Boats involved in Manhattan evacuation on 9/11


Book “All Available Boats”


Interviews associated with South Street Seaport exhibit on the topic


Video Merchant Marine heroes of 9/11 by MARAD (US Maritime Administration)


Interviews with local tug crews on www.carolinasalguero.com see section “Maritime 9/11” under section WTC. Slow to load – it’s an old Flash site.