WaterStories Programs

PortSide produces and hosts the most innovative waterfront programs in NYC.  

They all have water, waterfront or maritime in the theme, so we call them WaterStories.  They take many forms.

PortSide works at diverse sites

We create programs in industrial spaces, parks, and storefronts, and on historic ships. If it is on our historic tanker ship, the MARY A. WHALEN, the word tanker is in the name as in TankerTunes, TankerFlicks, TankerTalks, TankerTours, TankerTime.  Our work is multi-faceted and multimedia.

We seek building space near the tanker, so we can expand programs and offer long-planned programs in all weather and throughout the year. The tanker, as captivating as she is, does not have space for large groups of people when the main deck can't be used due to snow, rain, high wind or heat.

If you have a WaterStories idea to do on the MARY A. WHALEN or some other location, please email chiclet@portsidenewyork.org 

Program Highlights


October 2016, we launched Red Hook WaterStories, a digital maritime museum and in-depth guide to Red Hook, Brooklyn. Red Hook WaterStories tells NYC maritime story in microcosm. This is version 1.0. More to come! 


PortSide has organized walking tours with historical themes including: Industrial history of Red Hook, Norwegian-American history of Red Hook, and Brooklyn in Development.


multimedia 9/11 exhibit

PortSide researched, curated and installed MARINER'S RESPONSE TO 9/11, a multimedia exhibit mounted on the steamer LILAC on Pier 25 in Manhattan. We created this for the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and it was open September and October 2011.  Our exhibit and permanent webpage have more information on this aspect of 9/11 than the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum.

Multimedia Book Reading in a shipyard

For the 2007 book "The Graving Dock" by Gabriel Cohen, we created the first cultural event at GMD Shipyard in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a event called "A BOOK LAUNCH WHERE SHIPS LAUNCH."  The site explained aspects of the novel; and access to the site, coupled with our hand-outs, explained the maritime activity. Attendees ogled and photographed the huge graving dock where welding was underway. Inside the the Tailshaft and Valve Shop, 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.    

A day-long WaterStories Festival

PortSide created programs for a satellite location for City of Water Day in Atlantic Basin in 2010. PortSide created programs which included: ship tours of our MARY A. WHALEN and tours of a visiting vessel the Steamer LILAC with photo exhibitions aboard by David Hodgson, Gerry Weinstein, and David Goodman; port exhibits with US Customs explaining container inspection technology and a container-moving machine 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. 



PortSide co-produced Puccini's "Il Tabarro" staged on the MARY A. WHALEN.  The opera was performed and co-produced by Vertical Player Repertory, directed by Beth Greenberg of the New York City Opera.  With a background of gantry cranes and passing ships for, 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.  The experience netted 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 WaterStories event.


We screen water-themed movies, documentaries and feature films, on the tanker.  The deck is the auditorium. The screen is on the front of the house. 


Music with a relationship to the water concerts have included:  the Folk Music Society of New York; Sara Bouchard and The Union Street Preservation Society String Band; "Smitty & Co; Jalopy Theatre’s “Roots & Ruckus” featuring: the Two-Man Gentleman Band, Stephanie Nilles, Mamie Minch and Dayna Kurtz, and Feral Foster. 


Book readings and talks with water themes have included: “Deep Water” a gay love story, and a memoir about sailing.  HET VEER - the past, present, and future of New York's waterfront markets; knot-tying demonstration and telling about the history of knots and rope; The romance and commerce of travel by steamboat. 


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.

Weekdays 10-5:30pm.  Summer 2016 we offered Sunset TankerTime on the Second Sundays of June, July, August and September, 5-10pm.

Volunteer in 2017 and help us do this more weekend evenings! Just takes 2 people per night!


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 ship tours We offered the first, free, public, bilingual historic ship tours in NYC at the 2nd annual Concierto Tipico, a salsa concert on Pier 4, Brooklyn Army Terminal, Sunset Park, invited by Councilwoman Sara Gonzalez. We gave TankerTours in Spanish and English to 400 happy visitors. Many had never been on a boat before.

  • Professional education PortSide 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.