Photo by Will Van Dorp of Tugster

Spring 2013 internships at PortSide NewYork

Event planning… fundraising…community outreach… graphic design… social media… research…
Help change NYC’s waterfront!  Help us transition to a new home!  Work on a ship!
download this listing click

Join the innovative non-profit PortSide NewYork, a leader in waterfront advocacy and programming.

Our programs are a mix of maritime, preservation, forward-thinking urban planning, arts, education and community revitalization.

During the first month after hurricane Sandy, PortSide ran a pop-up Red Hook aid center, and we plan to have our cultural tourism programs support the area’s recovery from the storm.
PortSide’s offices are on a historic ship the MARY A. WHALEN, which we use as a museum, mobile cultural platform and teaching tool.  The only oil tanker cultural center in the world, the MARY A. WHALEN is on the National Register of Historic Places and is docked in the Red Hook, Brooklyn container port.  Late December, PortSide announced that our seven-year search for a site looks to be ending with a prospective home at GBX•Gowanus Bay Terminal across Columbia Street from IKEA. Map See our program video below
With the transition to a new home in 2013, PortSide will create fundraiser events, launch an on-line campaign, and engage in community outreach.  Interns will wear many hats during this exciting time.

We seek dependable, organized workers for a small and social office. Enthusiasm for PortSide’s mission, and good research and writing skills are essential.  Familiarity with Photoshop, Illustrator and/or InDesign and website/blog maintenance is highly desirable.  A knowledge of boats or waterfront issues is a decided plus, but not required.

Positions are unpaid.  Send resume and availability via email.

The ideal candidates will be able to contribute to several of the tasks outlined below.

Fundraising and program planning 

As we transition to a new home, fundraising and capacity building will be our priorities, but we will be looking to create programs that can comfortably be executed during this period of institutional growth.  Interns will help plan events and execute outreach to potential new supporters, sponsors, program partners and venues; help launch a fundraising committee; be a liaison between all participants, set up meetings and conference calls; and help put out PR blasts about events and breaking news.

Interns need to be organized and capable of tracking communication between many people over time.

Programs are likely to include regular ship tours, some cultural events, and the creation of a new guide to Red Hook in both hard copy and web versions.

Design Intern:

Our 2013 transition to a new home and related fundraising means we will produce a lot of news, flyers, brochure updates and invitations.  We seek a graphic designer to make those and to create a new version of our guide to Red Hook (PDF) which will aid Red Hook’s recovery from Sandy.  An essential project is to help transition our website to an on-line design platform such as WordPress or Squarespace with better integration of our blog and Twitter feed.

Social Media 

Intern will do pre-production work to help maintain PortSide’s blog, Facebook, and Twitter by researching some content, distributing Sandy recovery updates from the Mayor’s office, downloading and resizing photos.  We would love an intern who has advanced Twitter skills.  Intern will do some maintenance of our constituent database on Constant Contact.

Grant Research and Applications

Tasks include research sources of funding for general support for PortSide (funding for capital, program and operating costs) conservation of MARY WHALEN logbooks, and our BoatBox project; updating our extant grant list; assisting staff in completing funding applications.


We have installed a "PortSide SOS Pop Up" at 145 Columbia Street where we have an office, garden and gallery space. From the latter we will de-acquisition the local maritime artifacts that would have been part of our off-ship maritime museum.

People can now walk right into PortSide's office to volunteer, sign our petition, or get information.  Many already have!  We encourage all to do so!
We moved in one day - an example of how well PortSide has learned to pop-up during six+ years without a publicly accessible home.

PortSide is very grateful for this donated space, thanks to property manager Beth Kenkel and the building owner. Beth Kenkel has lived on "this side of the highway" for 16 years, cannot imagine living anywhere else and is invested in her neighborhood. She has been supportive of community programs and local business owners over the years. She manages a building owned by a family friend, located at 145 Columbia Street, which in the past has been home to The Brooklyn Greenway Initiative and The Supermovers, a moving company owned by people that also live in the neighborhood. Since both of them found new spaces that met their growing business needs, Beth has been trying to sort out how to best utilize the commercial space so that it best serves the area. That is when the owners of home/made, friends of Beth who knew about the empty storefront, mentioned it to Carolina. Carolina called Beth and we both realized what a great match the pop up museum would be on so many levels. 

PortSide would also like to thank home/made who offered the incentive of free brunch to the first ten people who offered to help us move!

We are also setting up a small maritime gallery with photography and painting in addition to the artifacts. So far, we will be selling paintings and ropework by Frank Hanavan, illustrations and fabrics by Christina Sun, paintings by Dennis Doyle (a painter and dredge crew member) and photos by Carolina Salguero. We can also display the artwork donated to support our fundraising. 

Beth Kenkel has said we can host a fundraiser on site. Here is the garden. It has a grill and fire pit too! Please come visit us soon!


PortSide has a crisis: we have looked for a home for 6+ years and had a real estate agreement fall through after 3+ years of work.   

We need a home confirmed by April 30th or we close and our historic ship, the tanker MARY A. WHALEN would likely be scrapped as there are few commercial uses for her.

Please help us by writing City Council members who are reviewing a city initiative that is supposed to make docking easier for historic ships.

The Mayor's office has declared a 2012 goal to created a uniform docking protocol for historic ships. This goal is embeded in the Economic Development Corporation’s Waterfront Vision and Enhancement Strategy (WAVES).

Friday, 3/16/12, the City Council Committee on Waterfronts will be holding a hearing on at 1:00 pm, 14th Floor Committee Room, 250 Broadway, Manhattan.  Please attend and testify if you can; but PLEASE write the committee at the following email addresses:

Chair, CM Michael C. Nelson (mnelson1@council.nyc.gov)
CM Gale A. Brewer (gbrewer@council.nyc.gov)
CM Brad S. Lander (lander@council.nyc.gov)
CM Eric A. Ulrich (eulrich@council.nyc.gov)
CM Peter F. Vallone (pvallonejr@council.nyc.gov

For inspiration, here is a sample letter 

< < < Date

re:  March 16, 2012 Council Committee on Waterfronts hearing

The plight of the non-profit PortSide NewYork and their home, the historic tanker MARY A. WHALEN is of particular concern to me.  I want to see the PortSide’s innovative waterfront-themed programs survive and grow and ensure that the MARY A. WHALEN is saved from being scrapped. PortSide NewYork needs to get a homeport secured immediately for these to happen.

I strongly urge you to help improve docking options for historic ships in NYC by creating a uniform landing protocol -- this will help PortSide and the MARY A. WHALEN.    

Without a clear set of rules and procedures that reflect the needs and operations of vessels, historic ships will continue to have difficulty finding usable berths and will be forced out of our waterfront.

I am writing now because there is a City Council Committee on Waterfronts hearing on March 16 to follow-up on the Waterfront Action Agenda (WAVES) of the Economic Development Corporation (EDC).  One goal of WAVES is: “Create uniform landing protocol and application for City-owned properties to facilitate docking of historic vessels (Mayor’s Office, 2012).”  

NYC’s historic ships offer a diverse range of experiences I value:  they teach about the past of this port and waterfront city, they offer great recreational, educational and workforce training opportunities for youth, they run wonderful cultural programs for people of all ages. Ships offer the most exciting and easy staycation options in New York City; being afloat is like nothing else!  Historic ships move around, linking and servicing service communities and boroughs in ways that land-based museums cannot.  

Please make piers easier for historic ships to use in NYC and historic ships to bring NYC’s revitalizing waterfront to life!  They are THE embodiment of “Vision 2020,” the city’s new waterfront plan.

< < < Add Any Additional Comments Here


        < < < Be sure to include this information

Portrait of Carolina Salguero in NYC Waterfront book "New York" by MARE Verlag

A portrait of PortSide NewYork Founder and Director Carolina Salguero is included in the coffeetable book "New York" recently issued by MARE, an innovative and award-winning German publishing house specializing in maritime themes (as we do!).

The luscious and often surprsing book features images of the city by renowned Magnum photographer Paolo Pellegrin and portraits by acclaimed photographer Stefan Pielow of New Yorkers whose lived are defined by the water.

Photo (c) Stefan Pielo

Big Money, Big Ideas for Bklyn Waterfront Today - or not

Last night Brooklyn Bridge Park officials revealed proposals for development on Pier 1, Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Below we offer a one-stop shop of today's links to Pier 1 coverage to make the proposal images easier to find.

In other (and the really astounding) waterfront news, the Times reports today that the Center for Urban Real Estate, which they call "a new research group at Columbia University" proposes connecting Governor's Island to Manhattan with landfill. The idea comes with a realtor-ready neighborhood moniker “LoLo” (Lower Lower Manhattan).

Hopping hollyhocks! Where to start on this one?  

There's the environmental issue of filling the harbor, there's shutting down a major maritime channel, and then there are other questions such as:

Why give Governors Island to Manhattan? It was once more closely related to Brooklyn. At low tide, people reputedly could walk over from Red Hook, and it is fact that the Buttermilk Channel was dredged as far back as the 1800s to open up a shipping channel. 

Alternatively, if one is to fill, would it be more useful for the city and region at the metalevel to fill out to the pier headline in Sunset Park and put a post-Panamax containerport there? Backers of that idea say the raising of the Bayonne Bridge is too little too late and doesn't address the hard right turn the ships have to make. 

Or how about the idea that maybe what makes Governors Island so great now is that it IS an island?  As LoLo, it's just another development.

Then there is the PortSide way of thinking, eg, it's OK to think big, but what is key is to get stuff happening right away with the infrastructure you have (open up all those city piers with nothing doing on them, make Governors Island piers more used) or build smaller projects to reflect real users (hello, "maritime piers" of 125th Street West Harlem, Pier 25 in Hudson River Park or the upcoming Pier 15 in the East River that are not designed for easy boat use). Hello, LoLo, rather than MegaBuild, how about “small but now”?  Isn’t there a recession on? How about some now now while there is no there there?  

Happy Thanksgiving.

PortSide Exhibit: Mariners' response to 9/11

Exhibit on the steamer LILAC - on Hudson River Park's Pier 25, Manhattan

PortSide NewYork, a waterfront-themed non-profit organization, is mounting a multi-media exhibit (photography, videos and oral history) and presentation about the extraordinary and little-known maritime role in 9/11, from evacuation to rubble removal. 

The exhibit venue Lilac and PortSide's base of operations, the Mary A. Whalen, survived Irene unharmed. Despite Irene's disruptions and delays, we are proceeding with plans for the exhibit.

Sponsors are still being sought for this exhibit. Please contact PortSide NewYork, Director Carolina Salguero,917-414-0565, portsidenewyork(at)gmail.com

Opening:   Thurs 9/8/11 6:00-9:00pm.

Talk:         Wed 9/14/11 7:00-8:30pm by Carolina Salguero, photojournalist on 9/11 and now Director of PortSide NewYork and journalist Jessica DuLong 

Location:   Historic ship LILAC, Hudson River Park’s Pier 25 at North Moore Street, Tribeca,Manhattan

Hours:        During September on Thursdays from 12:00pm to 6:00pm and Saturdays from 1:00pm to 6:00pm, plus scheduled visits by school groups.  Additional open hours for the public may be announced by early September.

Download press release here

related event: U.S. Coast Guard 9/11 New York City Response Retrospective on the Intrepid, Sat 9/10, 10 am to 4pm. Open to the public. more info

Photo by Carolina Salguero

The Coast Guard estimated that, on the morning of 9/11, between 350,000 and 500,000 people were evacuated from lower Manhattan by water during just a few hours.

Particularly noteworthy is that the process was started spontaneously by the operators of the boats themselves.  Within hours, five Coast Guard cutters, 12 small boats, and more than 100 public and private vessels operated on scene. For four days following the attacks, the boats continued to provide rescue workers with fuel, crucial supplies, and river water for firefighting.

The marine role continued, largely unsung, for months as all the rubble - 2,400 barges or 93,346 trucks' worth was removed from Manhattan by water, save for the ritual last column which left by truck.  The fact that it was removed by water made it possible to finish the job in just eight months, and spare the city incredible truck traffic.  In creating the exhibit, PortSide NewYork makes the point that the maritime 9/11 story has workaday implications for New York City as it develops new plans for its waterfront.

To bring home the point, the exhibit will be mounted on a ship docked at a pier from which Ground Zero rubble was removed.  PortSide will mount the exhibit on the former U.S. Lighthouse Tender Lilac, at Hudson River Park’s Pier 25, at North Moore Street, New York City in partnership with the non-profit Lilac Preservation Project

The exhibit will include photography and oral history by the award-winning photojournalist Carolina Salguero, who went on to found PortSide NewYork, plus contributions from vessel crews, and other institutions.

Photo by Carolina Salguero

Related talk:

On Wednesday, September 14, from 7:00-8:30pm a related talk will be given by Carolina Salguero (www.carolinasalguero.com) and journalist Jessica DuLong (www.jessicadulong.com), author of the critically acclaimed My River Chronicles: Rediscovering the Work That Built America, and chief engineer of retired New York City Fireboat John J. Harvey (www.fireboat.org), which was called back into service to supply firefighters with Hudson River water—the only water available for days following the towers' collapse. DuLong and her Fireboat Harvey crewmates were recognized in the Congressional Record for valor in aiding FDNY’s rescue efforts, and appear as characters in Maira Kalman’s award-winning children’s book FIREBOAT: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey.

The Lilac where the exhibit will be installed
As a ship-based museum, our role is to educate New Yorkers about our maritime heritage, and the story of the heroic role of mariners in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks has received little attention," said Lilac's Museum Director, Mary Habstritt.  "We are really honored to help recognize their contributions and to share this story on board a ship, at Pier 25, which itself played a role as a shipping point for debris removal."

Carolina Salguero, Founder & Director of PortSide NewYork said “I was really concerned that the story of the 9/11 maritime evacuation was so overlooked. That was one of the things that prompted me to found PortSide NewYork as a way to bring attention to the waterways. Doing this exhibit is a way to both commemorate what happened ten years ago and to help the city move forward with its new waterfront plan Vision 2020.  PortSide hopes, that by illuminating how those boats worked ten years ago—and the impediments they found—we can help the city better plan its future waterfront for both good days and bad."

"It's an honor to help share the largely untold story of the maritime community's contribution in New York City's hour of greatest need," said Jessica DuLong, chief engineer Fireboat John J. Harvey and author My River Chronicles, "The spontaneous mobilization was truly remarkable, but for mariners it's just a part of the job. Among those who work on the water the notion that panic leads to peril is as deeply ingrained as the tradition of helping those in need."

The exhibit includes:

Photography of the maritime evacuation:
  • featuring the work of Carolina Salguero, Founder + Director of  PortSide NewYork and an award-winning photojournalist. More about Salguero's reporting from ground zero in this video  
  • Photographs from Rich Naruszewicz, Captain of the New York Fast Ferry "Finest" evacuating people during 9/11 and former tankerman on PortSide's Mary A. Whalen
  • Photographs from crew of the retired fireboat John J. Harvey which served at ground zero.
Photography of rubble removal
  • by Carolina Salguero of Pier 25, North River and Pier 6, East River. 
Oral history
  • Of tug crews who evacuated people and removed rubble gathered by Carolina Salguero
  • MARAD video "Rescue at Water’s Edge,” a 10th anniversary tribute to the Merchant Mariners who sailed directly into harm’s way on September 11 and evacuated more 300,000 people by water.
  • Video by Mike Mazzei, dockbuilder who worked at 9/11 rubble removal site on Pier 25
  • Center for National Policy new video "Boatlift" the story of the armada of civilian watercraft which came together with no prior planning to evacuate hundreds of thousands of people from lower Manhattan on 9/11.  It was the largest sealift ever – greater even than at Dunkirk during World War I
More about PortSide NewYork www.portsidenewyork.org
PortSide NewYork is a young, innovative non-profit organization. Our mission is to show New York City better ways to use the BlueSpace, or water part of the waterfront, to educate the public and policy makers about the waterfront, and to help revitalize our home neighborhood of Red Hook, Brooklyn while doing that.

We promote sustainable waterfront planning that increases use of the water. This includes fostering waterborne transportation, the greenest way to move people and goods, and providing educational, cultural, and social service programs for the community on a water theme.  PortSide engages in harbor advocacy and runs an H2O Arts program that offers ship tours, talks, walks, readings, concerts, movies, and performing arts.

We use a historic ship, the coastal oil tanker Mary A. Whalen, as our office, mobile cultural platform, and teaching tool.  She was built in 1938 and is 172'  long.  She is famous for her role in incidents leading to the 1975 Supreme Court decision U.S. vs Reliable Transfer.

More about the Lilac Preservation Project: www.Lilacpreservationproject.org
The U.S. Lighthouse Tender Lilac was launched on May 26, 1933. Built for the U.S. Lighthouse Service, she carried supplies and personnel to lighthouses and maintained buoys.  The duties of the Lighthouse Service were later absorbed by the U.S. Coast Guard. Lilac was decommissioned by the Coast Guard in 1972. She was the last ship in the Coast Guard fleet to operate with reciprocating steam engines and is unique in still possessing her original engines. Lilac is on the National Register of Historic Places and is eligible to become a National Historic Landmark. The ship is owned by the non-profit Lilac Preservation Project.

Related 9/11 info:

Event: US Coast Guard 9/11 New York City Response Retrospective, Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum. Saturday 9/10 10 am to 4pm. Open to the public. more info

Coast Guard 9/11 oral history project:

National September 11 Museum Interactive timeline
Downtown Alliance list of 9/11-related events and programs


Hudson River Park's Pier 25. Cross West Street at N. Moore St. or Harrison St.

1 at Canal Street and Franklin St.
A,C,E at Canal St.
1,2,3 at Chambers St.

M20 and M22


Exhibit Design + Planning
provided pro bono by
Paul S. Alter

Lee H. Skolnick Architecture +
Design Partnership

To join our sponsors of this exhibit
Please get in touch with PortSide NewYork
Carolina Salguero, Director

Mary A. Whalen gets new and national recognition!

WE ARE EXCITED!  We applied to The NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (SHPO) to see if the Mary A. Whalen were eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and she is!

vintage photo of Mary A. Whalen when she was the S.T. KiddooWe've always said that we wanted to secure a lease before we could justify trying to raise money for the ship (please pick up the pace on that lease, EDC!) but enough things had aligned for us to start moving on getting recognition for the ship.

A first move to be eligible for major funding is to have the Mary Whalen become a NYC Landmark, on the National Register of Historic Places or "be deemed eligible to be on the National Register" a sort of interim status that implies significant documentation work in and of itself.

Many thanks to one of our spring interns Stephanie Ortiz,  an Architect in training from Puerto Rico and a Historic Preservation student at Pratt for helping to translate the preservation concepts, digging up the official guide on how to do this, doing additional historical research, and contributing to the whole process.

The process was itself gratifying because we came to realize how much information we had accumulated on the ship since 2005!

She came to PortSide with no history. Nada. Not even awareness of her role in the major Supreme Court decision US vs Reliable Fuel.

Tom Rinaldi, a young history buff working for the Central Park Conservancy, told us about the case around 2007. (This reveals how much more data has been uploaded and is now findable by google than in 2005).

We were able to fill in some gaps in our information via rushed consultations with Charlie Deroko, Norman Brouwer, Gerry Weinstein of Archive of Industry and Steamer Lilac. As Norman has helped write some of the national guides to ship preservation, his help was a real boost. Thanks to all of you!

We will be sharing some of what we learned from them in upcoming posts...

We pulled it all together and  SHPO reviewed our application in record time and wrote back "Great application!" They said they were pleased to hear from us, adding "we've been watching the Mary Whalen." 

Read their Determination of Eligibility letter here and check out her history page.  

The Mary Whalen's eligibility for the National Register increases funding opportunities and visibility for the ship, for PortSide and for Red Hook.

We have related news of PortSide's 2011 summer youth employment program to do restoration work on the Mary Whalen. You can support that via crowdrise. More on that soon!

Save a lighthouse? Buy a lighthouse?

Want a lighthouse? 

See correspondence just in from the GSA about Romer Shoal Light and Great Beds Lighthouses (posted with their approval)

-----Original Message-----
From: meta.cushing@gsa.gov [mailto:meta.cushing@gsa.gov]
Sent: Tuesday, April 12, 2011 8:00 AM
To: portsidenewyork@gmail.com
Subject: Romer Shoal Light and Great Beds Lights - GSA offshore auctions

Dear Portside:

Your programs sound very interesting. -

sending this information along in the off chance your membership might be interested in these historic lights, offshore near the border of NY/NJ waters... they are available under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act (NHLPA) via online auction.  Thank you.
..(See attached file: Great Beds IFB Final.pdf)(See attached file: Romer Shoal IFB Final.pdf)


US General Services Administration

-----Original Message-----
From: meta.cushing@gsa.gov [mailto:meta.cushing@gsa.gov]
Sent: Tuesday, April 12, 2011 8:56 AM
To: portsidenewyork@gmail.com
Subject: RE: Romer Shoal Light and Great Beds Lights - GSA offshore auctions

Good to hear back from you!  I found your site while I was looking for maritime programs in NY and NJ...  - there has been so little interest in these two offshore lights, I am concerned and want to let more maritime people know about the auctions.  We will keep the auctions going as long as we have some bidders!  I had thought by now there would be some...(Usually, people do not start bidding until we have had an offshore inspection - but to do that, I need people to register!  I have only one person who has registered so far for Great Beds and no one for Romer, disappointingly.)

As a nonprofit, you may know like-minded organizations who might be interested in other lighthouses:  Starting on June 1, 2011 for 60 days, GSA will be contacting nonprofits about several other offshore lights in NJ and NY  - The  Federal government offers these historic lights out first and foremost for stewardship by nonprofits, museums, or schools or cities or towns at no cost.  Nonprofits need to apply for them, and be recommended by the Dept of the Interior, National Park Service.  My agency is in charge of outreach and also deeding once the applicant has been approved.  This year, we are offering Race Rock and Orient Point lights in New York to nonprofits and public entities, as well as Brandywine Shoal, Ship John Shoal and Miah Maull in New Jersey.  All offshores.

It is only when we can't find a steward that we sell them.. (i.e. Great Beds and Romer are at the selling stage)

Yes, please put me on the e-newsletter... Thank you..

Send off to Old Man Winter

Is shipboard life romantic? You decide. Here's some of life on Pier 9B since late December.  

Below is a video from the Christmas blizzard where Carolina and her brother Antonio get ready to put out another bow line due to 50mph winds whipping around the end of the shed and hitting the bow. A few hours later, the winds were pushing the ship so far off the pier, they decided to raise the gangway on the boom so the gangway didn't come off the pier. We've kept the gangway rigged to the boom, which has allowed us to raise it and protect it from wake damage at high tide. This has given the office crew an athletic interactive feature they use several times a day, and Chiclet has become expert at catapulting herself off it at high tide. 

In order to spring the spring that has not sprung, we offer this tribute to Old Man Winter on what he does for us on the Mary A. Whalen!  
Block the view
Coat everything
Have us go for salt from the pile
Prevent office staff getting carpal tunnel by having regular shoveling breaks. Here, Dan Goncharoff demonstrates excellent shovel technique.
Provide opportunity for Smoke 101, or How to Use the Damper, a
short intensive class for Stephanie Ortiz, our planning intern from Puerto Rico.
Beat up on the gangway chainfall until it snags, kinks and chokes and 
needs rescue lubrication. Thank you ASI for sending this forklift 12 minutes after the request!
Oblige us to call Rich Naruszewicz of the Captain Log for diesel fuel deliveries to run the galley stove. Like the mail boat, he comes with sea stories (Brownwater Edition) new and old (he used to be a tankerman on the Mary A. Whalen).

Attract better dressed shovellers on Volunteer Days! Here Claudia Steinberg, who writes about design and fashion for the New York Times and German publications, joined a shoveling committee, needed after our director Carolina Salguero was hit by a truck in January and couldn't shovel for most snowfalls after the blizzard. 
Set off the ship colors so nicely
Make lovely patterns, such as this March snow where the frames under the deck, warmed by the sun the day before, are still warm enough to melt the damp coating of an early morning.

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.