WaterStories Events

PortSide has found many ways and places to run our distinctive WaterStories events. If you have a event idea for us to do on the MARY A. WHALEN or some other location, please email portsidenewyork@gmail.com

Some high points

Multi-Faceted Events & Exhibits

MARINER'S RESPONSE TO 9/11, a multimedia exhibit during September and October 2011, on the steamer LILAC on Pier 25 in Manhattan. The exhibit included photography, oral history, video and a reading room.  It was installed on a Pier which had a significant role in removing the World Trade Center rubble by barge. The exhibit covered the evacuation of lower Manhattan by water on 9/11 (the largest boatlift in history) the creation of the emergency ferry network which lasted over two years, and the removal off all the rubble by tug and barge.  It was the only exhibit documenting this important story on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

A BOOK LAUNCH WHERE SHIPS LAUNCH : The Graving Dock by Gabriel Cohen
November 2007, we ran the first cultural event in GMD Shipyard, in their Tailshaft and Valve Shop. "Best book event I ever attended," said one book publisher. Attendees eyed and photographed the huge graving dock where welding was underway on tugboat exhaust stacks. Inside, guests chatted over hot cider, beer, wine and sandwiches while a slide show of images, overlaid with quotes from the novel, was projected inside the shed wall.  A video of the churning waters of the Buttermilk Channel lit up the wall behind Gabriel Cohen while he read. BookCourt did a lively business selling books at the end.    

"CITY OF WATER DAY AT ATLANTIC BASIN PortSide created programs for a satellite location for City of Water Day, started by the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance (MWA). The event is based on Governors Island and PortSide created a satellite location in 2010 which included: TankerTours of the 172' Mary A. Whalen, ship tours the 173’ Steamer Lilac with photo exhibitions aboardby David Hodgson, Gerry Weinstein, and David Goodman; port exhibits with a US Customs marine security display and reach stacker container-mover from American Stevedoring; Underwater NY SoundTank recording your thoughts; BookCourt selling water-themed books; Food vendors: Kevin’s Restaurant; PortSide Paint Your Own Fish T-shirt booth; Kiddie pools with boat models and rubber ducks; Photo booth from MVS Studio; The Red Hook Ramblers band. 

Tanker Opera

Puccini's Il Tabarrostaged aboard the MARY WHALEN.  The opera was performed and co-produced by Vertical Player Repertory, directed by Beth Greenberg of the New York City Opera.  With gantry cranes and passing ships for the background, the net effect was both innovative opera and a great port appreciation event. Sponsored by American Stevedoring this was the first public performance in a Port Authority terminal.  PortSide co-produced Puccini's Il Tabarro to rave reviews from local, national, and international press and sell out crowds.  PortSide set up the on-line ticketing (and grew the opera company's audience from 50 a night to over 400), contracted catering for a reception and cash bar, and set up a mini maritime museum for this H20 Arts event.


PortSide tours of the MARY A. WHALEN are ways to learn about this historic ship, sustainability issues, the harbor ecology AND economy.  In additional to open houses for the public and school trips for elementary school, and college and graduate students, we have offered:

  • Bilingual TankerTours Invited by Councilwoman Sara Gonzalez, PortSide gave TankerTours at the 2nd annual Concierto Tipico, a salsa concert on Pier 4, Brooklyn Army Terminal, Sunset Park. These were the first, free, public, bilingual historic ship tours in NYC. We gave them in Spanish and English to 400 happy visitors, many of whom had never been on a boat before.

  • Professional education PortSide has hosted several waves of college professors enrolled in City Tech's NEH funded program "Along the Shore."  The program used Brooklyn’s industrial waterfront as a place-based education teaching tool.


Our name for water-themed movie nights on the tanker.  Films we have shown include :

Random Lunacy  - the story of  Papa Neutrino  who sailed a raft of junk across the Atlantic.|
Lavender Lake  - the humorous classic about the Gowanus Canal and its issues.
Ferry Tales  - a lively peek at commuters in the ladies powder room of the Staten Island Ferry.

Red Hook WaterStories Walking Tours

PortSide has organized many history and cultural tours including:

Industrial history of Red Hook, led by Mary Habstritt, president of the Society of Industrial Archeology and Museum Director of the Lilac.

Ethnicity, culture, and politics of Red Hook.   Put together by Carolina Salguero, Director of PortSide NewYork and James T. Fisher, author of “Irish Waterfront” and Professor of Theology at Fordham.

Norwegian-American history of Red Hook, led by Historian of the Norwegian Immigrant Association, Lars Nilsen.

Brooklyn in Development, covering environment, history, industry, architecture, and planning, led by Dan Wiley, Community Coordinator for Congresswoman Velazquez.


Past Performances have included:
Songs of Many Waters:  From oceans to puddles, songs of the seas, lakes, canals, and the ships and sailors who sail them. A singalong led by singers and musicians from the Folk Music Society of New York.

The Songs of Lewis & Clark, and Other American Roots:  Sara Bouchard and The Union Street Preservation Society String Band. 

"Smitty & Co"  Wicked steel guitar…the whining side of Mississippi delta... truly hot and really cool.

Jalopy Theatre’s “Roots & Ruckus” : featuring: the Two-Man Gentleman Band, Stephanie Nilles, Mamie Minch and Dayna Kurtz, and Feral Foster. 


Past talks have included:

Author Eugene Kahn reading from his from “Deep Water” a gay love story, and a memoir about sailing, a lover’s death from AIDS, and founding the Knickerbocker Sailing Association, which “serves gay & lesbian sailors from New York to Rhode Island.”

HET VEER - (the Ferry) Robert LaValva, founder of New Amsterdam Market discussing the past, present, and future of New York's waterfront markets and the Vision for the Seaport, New York's public market district since 1642.

Seth Goodwin, Dockmaster, NYC Department of Parks and Recreation and founder of the Red Hook Maritime Guild leading a knot-tying demonstration and telling about the history of knots and rope.

Conrad Milster presenting the romance and commerce of travel by steamboat.  Conrad, Chief Engineer of Pratt Institute Power Plant and industrial historian worked on some of the last steamships on the Hudson River and lovingly documented their origins, use and demise.


The public is invited to enjoy the main deck of the tanker, cool sea breezes, and harbor sunsets. You can bring dinner, a bottle, a book, or a sketchpad. We provide the hammocks, tables and chairs.