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

Comments on Bowery Boys Red Hook history podcast

Pier 9B, Red Hook, Brooklyn
Posted by Carolina Salguero

A recent podcast on the site THE BOWERY BOYS covers Red Hook history with a strong focus on gangs and crime. 

There is much good about the piece, but it also has some errors, and in dwelling on crime so much, it skews the area's history.  I wrote the creators; and in order to facilitate getting the word out, I post my email to them below.  

In an idea world, I'd have time to upload supporting data, but I don't. I did add a link about the Carnegie Library in the version below.

You can write them yourself at the following email addresses boweryboysnyc@earthlink.net; tom@boweryboyspodcast.com, and/or post a comment here.

Dear Greg and Tom:

I am glad that you love Red Hook and chose to dedicate time to the place, your piece reflects that love; but your history has considerable errors. 

I'm the Founder and Director of PortSide NewYork a waterfront-themed non-profit here in Red Hook.  We are based on the oil tanker MARY A. WHALEN docked in the Red Hook Container Terminal.   

One of our missions has been to research Red Hook history on a water theme and produce related cultural tourism products.  More here

I don't have the time to write out a detailed correction of all the errors in your podcast and so will just rattle off some observations.
It was Norwegians first, not Irish.  Planners did lay out grid for the streets in the early mid 1800's, but large parts of eastern Red Hook remained watery through the late 1880s.  
Though Red Hook had gangs, as you describe; well before Red Hook was known as the crack capital of the USA, the neighborhood was also home to huge industry and many lower middle class and middle class residents and a booming retail corridor.   

There was a Carnegie library, wealthy people using the Hamilton Avenue Ferry, built to facilitate access to Green-Wood Cemetary and soon used by commuters from what we now call Carroll Gardens to go to work in lower Manhattan's business district.  

In short, Red Hook housed great poverty, but for decades was more mixed economically than your focus on gangland stories describes.  Personally, I find what is most distinctive about Red Hook over the years is the capacity of this small place to hold AT THE SAME TIME a striking economic range in its residents and a striking range of land use from major industry to residences.

Also, residents of Carroll Gardens did not drive the name change of their area, it was real estate brokers who changed the name, my mother being one of them. It was a technique to attract buyers (and lenders) for brownstones who might be dissuaded by the name of Red Hook, which by the 1960s was associated with things dark.  

Your most significant error is to say that the movie "On the Waterfront" is based on Red Hook. That is an easy error to make as that is oft repeated here. I myself made the mistake of writing so in one of our early Red Hook guides.
After additional research, I can confirm that this is not so, nor was Elia Kazan's movie of that name based on Arthur Miller's script.  

In a zeigeist way, a number of people were likely focusing on dockland stories at that time, the issues having been recently been outed by a long expose series in the press. 

"On the Waterfront" is based on another script by Budd Schulberg and based an actual person Father Pete Corridan who was facing issues on the docks on the westside of Manhattan and Union County, New Jersey, not Red Hook.  Note that the Red Hook docks were by then controlled by ethnic Italians and not Irish.  

A full length book, based on in-depth academic research, was recently published about the dockworker issues and the movie.  The book is called "On the Irish Waterfront."  It is a corrective to much popular misunderstand about how the famous movie came to be and the conventional interpretation of the movie as being an Elia Kazan apologia for testifying before HUAC.  

I can put you in touch with the professor Jim Fisher of Fordham who wrote the book. His blog has information about the book, though lately it has veered into more personal terrain, so try this post.  

The book's Amazon listing is here

If you do follow ups or corrections, feel free to get in touch.

I may publish the content of this email in some form as a blogpost to facilitate these corrections being available to a wider audience which may be misled by your history.


Carolina Salguero
Founder + Director

PortSide NewYorkBringing NYC's BlueSpace to life

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!