PortSide NewYork’s 2019 Black History Month program about African American Maritime History (#AfAmMH) is all digital since we have no building space for public programs. We will be posting to our Facebook pages, Twitter and Instagram and updating this blogpost with content over the month. Please send us ideas, comment and share.Read More
PortSide blogs about our WaterStories programs, urban waterways issues, the BLUEspace, development plans for the NYC waterfront, our ship MARY A. WHALEN and other historic vessels, boats and ships of all sizes.
Come learn about jobs and careers in maritime &
the “transportation, distribution & logisitics” (TDL) industry
In Red Hook! at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal
Tuesday, 10/23/18, 11:00am to 1:00pm
PortSide NewYork will be present!
Walk into Atlantic Basin at the gate at Pioneer and Conover Street. The Brooklyn Cruise Terminal is straight ahead.
Drive in the gate at Bowne and Imlay. You will be entering an industrial area. The roadway turns hard left, and then you drive past a 4-block long warehouse on your right with lots of trucks backed up to it. The roadway hooks right just after that warehouse, and then the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal is straight ahead. Plenty of free parking.
Participate in MARY Inspiration Day at PortSide NewYork on Sunday 5/20/18! Are you a painter, poet, sketcher, illustrator, photographer, printmaker, choreographer, playwright, puppeteer, sound fabric artist, quilter? Any kind of creative? Come on down! Come create work inspired by our historic ship Mary A Whalen and our evocative maritime location. This event is inspired by the 80th birthday of our ship on 5/21/18 and the diverse artwork she has inspired.Read More
PortSide’s WaterStories education programs reflect our interdisciplinary sensibility and creativity in deploying our ship, our location and our harbor to teach many topics - often many at once!Read More
I am concerned that superstorm Sandy could drown a good idea. By that I mean, that the focus on protecting NYC from water could prevent NYC from "activating the waterways" with greater and more diverse uses such as advocated by Vision 2020, the city's second comprehensive (and great) waterfront plan. "Activation" is urban planner speak for use them more.Read More
Thurs 5/26 - Mon 5/30 "Fleet Week" ship tours in Red Hook, Brooklyn
Sat 5/28 TankerTours of MARY A. WHALEN (info at bottom)
This year, Fleet Week “Celebrating The Sea Services” has three ships open to the public in the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in Red Hook. This is the first time that Fleet Week has been at that cruise terminal. There will be two Navy Destroyers and one Coast Guard cutter (see photos below):
- Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Farragut (DDG 99)
- Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG 96)
- Coast Guard USCGC Forward (WMEC 911)
Fleet Week ships visiting hours Thurs 5/26/16 - Mon 5/30/16 from 8am to 5pm each day. Entry may be closed at 3pm each day to allow visitors aboard to cycle out.
Directions to Brooklyn Cruise Terminal (for cars, public transit, walking, biking, ferry)
Fleet Week rules on what you can't bring & need to bring, etc. See their FAQs for what you need to have (IDs of people over 18) and can't bring aboard: strollers (leave them on the pier), bottles, cans, knives and more, and should avoid (high heels, sandals, open toed shoes and more).
Visit historic Red Hook, home to great restaurants, bars, cultural institutions and parks! Info
Sat 5/28 TANKERTOURS FOR MARY A. WHALEN
Sat 5/28/16 from 10am-5pm
Sign up for tours on-site. Groups of 20 will be admitted every 20 minutes. No tours at 1:00 & 1:20 as we break for lunch.
Can't make it? For other ways to experience the MARY, see Visitor Info
PortSide NewYork will open our ship, the tanker MARY A. WHALEN in honor of her 78th birthday! She is the only oil tanker cultural center in the world. She is the last of her kind in the USA and is listed on the National Register of historic places. She is significant for her role in the 1975 Supreme Court legal decision U.S. vs Reliable Transfer, a major case in US maritime law. The MARY is a symbol of resiliency because the PortSide crew rode out superstorm Sandy on the ship, and then we brought our office equipment ashore to set up and run a hurricane Sandy pop-up aid station.
The MARY A. WHALEN's story is woven into Red Hook WaterStories because she was built for the Red Hook company Ira S. Bushey & Sons and was based in Red Hook for decades as tanker and then as a floating dock and office for Hughes Marine after she went out of service in 1994. She became PortSide's flagship in 2007.
The MARY was launched May 21, 1938 at Mathis in Camden, NJ and built for Bushey's, an innovative and unusually diverse maritime company which closed in the 1980s. Bushey's was based at the foot of Court Street and ran a ship yard, fuel terminal and fuel delivery fleet of tugs, tankers and barges. Bushey's built over 200 ships for the Navy and commercial service and had ships built at other yards. Today, the Bushey property remains an active maritime site with the fuel tanks operated by Buckeye and their fuel moved by our friends at Vane Brothers. Vane runs a fleet of tugs and fuel barges and has often towed our MARY A. WHALEN for free. Vane also introduced us to their paint supplier International Paint who has donated all the paint to recoat the decks and house.
Please donate now to support our restoration of the MARY A. WHALEN, public programs aboard which include TankerTours, TankerTime,
and our summer preservation internships with the WHSAD high school
and programs off the ship such as
our Sandy recovery and resiliency work and
Red Hook WaterStories which tells Red Hook maritime history over 400+ years.
Help us match a grant and raise another $20,000 for Red Hook WaterStories by the end of June and donate here!
Red Hook WaterStories is supported in part by Councilman Carlos Menchaca.
Dear Mariners (ones on contemporary ships and historic ones) as we build up to the 2-year anniversary of hurricane Sandy, we invite you to tell you Sandy stories and share your photos here. We ask you to join us in an educational project.
A goal of PortSide NewYork is to bring the community ashore and community ashore closer together. Sharing Sandy stories is one important way to do that. We have found that most people ashore in NYC don’t know the mariners’ Sandy story, from prevention, to riding out the storm, to damages incurred, to recovery work -- usually recovery work while being damaged from Sandy.
In the way that PortSide told the mariners’ response to 9/11 in an exhibit, we would like to do that with Sandy, and we’d like to start that project here.
We believe that resiliency planning in NYC should involve hearing from the people who build the bulkheads and piers (and who will build any of the sea walls being proposed), marine salvors and equipment suppliers who pump the flooded tunnels, the crew and companies who move the fuel everyone was so desperate to have after Sandy, who clear the channels of debris so imports could arrive by ship, who build and run the emergency ferries, and companies that use boats like dinner boats in emergency response ways, etc.
We also believe mariners can have an important role in preparing communities for floods by helping teach awareness of marine weather, by bringing coastal living skills to New Yorkers living at the water's edge who lack those skills.
There are coastal parts of NYC where communities retain what were traditional coastal skills in abundance, the Rockaways, City Island, parts of Staten Island, where bayman, watermen, boatmen (and women) live, work and play; but large parts of NYC’s waterfront are now populated by people who have little sense of the water along which they live.
PortSide has designed some programs to share knowledge of the water with such people, and we’d like to see if we could kick off that conversation here.
What echoes in our ears is what we heard so often in the Sandy aid center we ran in Red Hook when people explained why they did not prep for Sandy either by evacuating or executing protective measures “they warned us about Irene, and nothing happened.”
This request is also on our two Facebook pages (Mary A. Whalen and PortSide NewYork) for people who would rather share there.
Yesterday, Don Horton visited PortSide NewYork to give us some oral history. PortSide has been corresponding with Don Horton since October 2013, and the last time Don Horton visited Red Hook was 1950.
Starting in the 1940s, through the WWII period, he was working as a child in the merchant marine - a paid worker - so the company knew what was going on.
Yes, such a class of merchant mariner existed, and Don has dedicated his retirement years to getting their service recognized by the federal government, along with the women, elderly and disabled who worked in the wartime merchant marine. All of that being a startling case of "who knew?"
We wrote about his dogged efforts to reveal this hidden history in a prior blogpost.
Don knows conventional military service, what it is to be a vet.
He served in the Korean War, and he believes that the hundreds of thousands of merchant mariners who served during WWII deserve our nation’s acknowledgement of their service whether they were towing supplies to the European theater or moving cargo along our eastern shore where German U-boats came in close to sink their kind of vessels.
From age 10-18, Don Horton worked on barges, along with his two brothers, his sister, and his mother, all of them joining the father of the family throughout the summer.
One of their main jobs was hauling coal from Norfolk, Virginia up north. The two boys learned fast how to repair a steam boiler, and they painted the barge. Mama (Sadie Horton) was the cook. The sister married early in the story and got off the boats. Papa seems to have liked drink too much, and brother Billy got off the barges to get away from that and went to work on a tug. The third day on the tug, at age 17, Billy was killed when Germans shelled and sank his boat.
In comparison, Don’s memories of Red Hook are more associated with fun. A stop in New York meant good times. Don recalled a trip to 42nd Street and the treat of a hot dog. A trip to Coney Island netted a very big hot dog.
Yesterday, Don was in town to see some Senators on behalf of his cause which you can follow on Facebook and to contribute some oral history to PortSide's WaterStories cultural tourism effort. Here is a preliminary glimpse of some gems we got from Don today.
Carolina Salguero, John Weaver and Peter Rothenberg spent several hours interviewing Don and recording video and sound files. Don's tack-sharp memory and vivid story telling made for a great afternoon.
We started out talking over lunch in the galley of our Mary A. Whalen with Don and his darling wife Norita.
Ralston's WWII grocery, now the site of hip Baked
After lunch, we visited the site of Ralston's, a grocery store during WWII Red Hook: fruit under an awning out front, narrow aisles and a place where they preferred you give them a list of what you wanted instead of getting it from the shelf yourself, little shopping carts with wooden wheels.
Don said boats liked to provision at Ralston’s and explained the allure: the captain's were given free liquor in the back in a private bar which ensured they would frequent the joint and then spend grub money in the store.
Ralston’s address was 294 Van Brunt Street, now BAKED.
Don said that the soda Spur was their favorite and that he and his siblings fought over the precious bottles on the barge trip to the next port, the ice blocks from Ralston's being their only refrigeration until they got there.
Here is a 1943 ad for Spur, "a cola with a walnut taste," he remembered with a smile.
Next, we took Don Horton past two once-twin tenements, one of which is at 415 Van Brunt, to see if those were the kind of buildings that matched his "never would happen now" WWII memories of a Van Brunt Street where women on hands and knees scrubbed little porches with buckets of water, a scrub brush and a big bar of Octagon soap.
YES, those were the kinds of buildings he remembered!
Don then explained that "doing laundry" on the barge was scrubbing dungarees on the wide rail of the barge and leaving them to dry there.
From there, over to Sunny's Bar where we were thrilled to find Sunny himself lounging in bathrobe with friends at the end of lunch.
At age 80, Sunny is but 2 years younger than Don, and they shared many memories including swimming in the filthy water of the time which both cited as having lots of turds and Coney Island whitefish as Sunny called them, or rubbers in Don’s version.
Sunny cheekily got an old load off his conscience when he confessed that he'd "borrowed' someone's rowboat at one point, and on top of that lied to his Papa saying that he had not taken it, and apologized to Don who said they'd come back from Ralston's Grocery at times to find their boat gone.
The rowboats always came back, Don said, but delays were a big concern; because if they missed the tide, the current would be too strong to row against it in their little boat loaded with groceries.
Sunny shared memories of how, when he heard wartime air raid siren drills and knew that the war was being fought "overseas," thought that Staten Island (which was overseas for a little Red Hook boy) was under attack.
Here is what Don told us about shelling during the interview in the galley: When he first started on the barges and saw flashes of light when they were offshore and asked Papa what they were, Papa fibbed and didn’t say it was German’s shelling the American merchant marine, he said it was lighting.
Later on, “I knew what those lights were,” said Don, “and something I don’t often say, I wet myself with fear.” The barges were old boats, unarmored with no weapons, three miles behind the tug, he clarified.
We need to clarify what "barges" means here. These were the old, creaky hulls of wooden schooners, dismasted to turn them into barges.
Don said the vessels' intended life span was some 25 years and these were 50-60 years old and so frail that after being beat up in a storm, the caulk might be battered out. Then, they'd have to go to a shipyard for repairs.
The Red Hook Flats & Erie Basin
We walked out to the end of the Beard Street Pier so Don Horton could see the Red Hook flats and the entrance to Erie Basin. This prompted more memories.
Don had emailed us some great memories of the Red Hook flats last year which paint a picture of a harbor jammed with ships, tugs, barges, row boats and the "bum boat" or "speculator" a sort of scrap dealer and rag picker afloat who went from vessel to vessel buying what he could.
Yesterday, Don described how he and his brother scavenged whatever they could, lengths of tired rope, bits of metal they found or “liberated” from cargo on the occasions they were hauling metal.
Standing on the end of Greg O’Connell’s Beard Street Pier enabled Don to pin point geography in a way that looking at the map while seated in our galley had not, and he explained that the dinghy dock location was around the Erie Basin side of that pier. During WWII, tugboats were jammed into the place where the New York Water Taxi homeport dock is today.
Don said there were often up to 50 barges at anchor "on the Red Hook flats" as he called them, and that Erie Basin was so chock full of ships and barges that his family had to find channels underneath the bow and stern rakes of the barges to row their way through the fleet.
During the interview in the Mary A Whalen galley, Don described how his father bought a lot of whiskey when he was ashore, and his mother would dump it over the side once they got back to the barge on the Red Hook flats, to the point that she said the flats must be full of whiskey bottles. Hello, bottle collecting divers!
We were all surprised to learn that Don's mother did not know how to swim and was afraid of the water but still spent every summer working the coastwise barges with her husband and children during the war.
The whole endeavor required a lot of courage by everyone in the family, and PortSide NewYork is helping to get this aspect of history, that's national history and local history, better known.
[This and many other stories are also told in redhookwaterstories.org PortSide NewYork's e-museum and neighborhood website. ]
Exciting 5 Days in Atlantic Basin & NY Harbor
What a whirlwind! In just over a month, PortSide NewYork received a White House award for our Sandy recovery work, had our Founder & Director Carolina Salguero receive a National Maritime Historical Society (NMHS) award, and we were able to open the tanker MARY A. WHALEN to the public for the first time in almost three years!!!
News of that NMHS award facilitated PortSide’s being able to move the tanker into Atlantic Basin, which is how, on very short notice, we could to open the tanker MARY A. WHALEN for her 75th birthday.
Friday 5/17/13, some eighty NMHS members came to the MARY A. WHALEN on a NY Waterways ferry as part of a harbor tour of historic ships. Our Director Carolina Salguero spent the rest of the weekend with NMHS during their 50th anniversary celebrations and annual meeting.
For inspiration about how to think of using our harbor, take a look at the National Maritime Historical Society 50th Anniversary weekend events to see how maritime people connect far flung venues - by boat! The itinerary harkens back to the “Chain of Ships” we once proposed, a series of NYC maritime destinations connected by boat.
With the tanker in Atlantic Basin for the NMHS visit, we asked if we could stay two more days, which is how the ship was suddenly able to be open to the public on Tuesday, 5/21/13, the tanker's actual 75th birthday.
The MARY A. WHALEN was open for public tours during a hot Tuesday afternoon, followed by a public party with “cake and remarks” from 5-7pm, with an evening after-party capping it all off.
TankerTour visitors included the great surprise of crew descendants: Hans Hansen, son of the engineer Hans Hansen who worked with Alf Dyrland, the Captain for 20 years, brought the engineer’s granddaughter Ingrid Hansen for the first time since 1968. She was about 9 when she last visited and remembered that women were not welcome aboard at the time. Some things have changed!
We also received visitors from PS 29, the school for whose Super Science Saturday fair we created our simple “Simple Machine” machine and installation, a highly interactive exhibit we would like to bring other schools and public events. (School staff & parents, please get in touch to help shape programs for the next year!).
PortSide use of the tanker as a social mixer to bring maritime and inland people together was sure evident during the party!
We had the maritime consultants, authors and artists Barry Parker, Rick Spilman & Frank Hanavan, along with community members, families with kids, and Ian Danic, a board member of River Project, with his pet giant macaws.
Frank Hanavan did some turkshead bombing of our gangway rail and strung up ship flags to great effect, assisted by architect and Museum Designer Paul Alter, who peered into the
cargo tanks and expressed an interest in being the man to redesign them for
exhibit and function space when we're ready to do that.
Also attending was the Federal Disaster Recovery Coordination team involved with New York State's Sandy recovery. We met them thanks to winning the White House award and are talking to them about how to bring resiliency preparedness resources to Red Hook.
Roland Lewis lead a contingent from the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance. Dan Wiley from US Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez' office and Jim Vogel from NYS Senator Velmanette Montgomery spent a long time with us, and we were glad to have our prospective landlord John Quadrozzi of GBX-Gowanus Bay Terminal aboard with his wife Xiomara.
As if the macaws were not visual enough, maritime photographer Jonathan Atkin provided more eye candy by running a photo shoot with three magnificent dancers.
Access limitations at our normal berth in the Red Hook containerport had prevented Atkin from getting dancers to the tanker for weeks; so with just two days notice, he assembled three of them to further his Hero Project, an inspired photo concept he created to use dancers to bring attention to the cause of historic ships.
After the party shoot, one dancer tackled his bird phobia with one of Ian's macaws – the MARY A. WHALEN is consistently a place where extraodinarly things happen - and the hip hop dancer Ze Motion, who dances for Madonna and major sponsors, offered to donate a dance performance to PortSide.
What's in a name
The tanker’s 75th, and our new website, are the occasion to introduce the new way we will refer to the tanker.
We’ve been calling her “the Whalen” for short since that was what our Director Carolina Salguero first heard her called in 2001; but we have learned that all former crew members call her “the MAR,Y” and so from here on in, so shall we.
That's a good lead in to note just how rare and precious the MARY A. WHALEN is as well as what PortSide has done with her.
According to Norman Brouwer, a noted maritime historian, the MARY A. WHALEN is the only oil tanker in the world re-purposed as an educational and cultural center. Once the Sandy-damaged tanker JOHN B CADDELL is scrapped next month, Norman says the MARY A. WHALEN will be the last surviving coastal oil tanker in the USA.
What was a sizeable fleet of coastal oil tankers, a type of vessel type which was significant to the war effort during WWII, was destroyed in the course of duty, sunk as artificial reefs, scrapped or , years ago, exported to third world countries.
Some behind the scenes photos - what's involved in moving the MARY
It's great to be a tanker! We could use our own boom to lift aboard a portasan and take it with us, sparing us the cost and hassle of having Royal Flush deliver. The tug RED HOOK approaches, makes up the tow, we haul in our shorepower cord, we pass the container ship pier of the Red Hook Marine Terminal, MV Cape Race as we enter Atlantic Basin, John Weaver attaches the shorepower cord adapter for Atlantic Basin, coming back home at dusk with Red Hook Volunteer Mike Elders on deck, crew of tug SASSAFRAS docking the MARY.
Profuse thanks to the Port Authority, EDC & BillyBey for greenlighting our stay in Atlantic Basin within days. At this time, we would also like to welcome BillyBey to Red Hook as the new operator of Atlantic Basin. Our visit was their first vessel call in Atlantic Basin, and it was an auspicious start! Thanks also to Metro Cruise Services, the operators of the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, for their help with the fencing we used during the TankerTours and tanker birthday party.
Thanks to the Red Hook Volunteers for providing essential
set-up and break-down labor. If you want to help Red Hook’s Sandy recovery, please come volunteer with
them! Sandy-damaged businesses, home owners, tenants and NYCHA residents are still being helped by them.
We only recently learned the MARY A. WHALEN's actual launch date was May 21 due to research by noted maritime historian Norman Brouwer, the man who basically wrote THE guides to historic ships and some of our national preservation standards for them. Thank you, Norman!
Special thanks to Vane Brothers for donating the tow between our current berth in the containerport and Atlantic Basin!!! We were very excited to be towed to Atlantic Basin by their brand new tug, the RED HOOK, named in honor of our favorite neigborhood. Vane's NYC operations are based at the former site of Ira S. Bushey's in Red Hook where the MARY A. WHALEN first began her working life, which provides a great reminder of how the working waterfront in Red Hook has a long, and living, history - and we are part of it!