PortSide partners with Red Hook's P.S. 676, provides programs for all grades.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.
Great to see weathered teak woodwork go from grey to gold! Great to see youth learn to do it! Read how Christopher, Christie, Cesar, Devere and Jose describe their summer, in their own words.Read More
"Red Hook WaterStories” (RHWS) Project Moves Forward
Team grows and makes substantial headway!
What is Red Hook WaterStories
A water-themed history trail about and for fascinating Red Hook, Brooklyn. It will educate visitors and locals, help revitalize Red Hook and help protect this community from floods. It tells NYC's maritime story in microcosm. This year, we are launching a pilot multimedia map and creating a hard copy visitor guide and signs with QR codes around the neighborhood that alert people to the website. We will create large, outdoor, exhibit panels with this content. We are taping more oral histories to share.
PortSide offices aboard the ship MARY A. WHALEN are a buzz as we push ahead with Red Hook WaterStories. Many new consultants and interns have come aboard to help develop and catalog content. The accessibility of our new home is allowing people with valuable skills, but no prior relationship to PortSide, to literally step (or ride their bicycle like David Levine) up to the pier and get involved.
We thank Councilman Carlos Menchaca both for seeing the importance of our new home and for the $20,000 in funding that is pushing the project forward. We have applied for other funding, and have launched a campaign to raise another $20,000 by then end of June 2016.
New people, new energy!
Our Curator and Historian Peter Rothenberg has been joined by a team of consultants, advisors and interns. Some are interviewing, some research archives, some are deep in the html end of the archive. Bios of the team on the Red Hook WaterStories webpage.
We have been collecting new content and looking backward, meaning we sought technology and advice on how to get our archive coded and organized. David Levine has 25 years experience in content management at major corporations and is leading the tech end of the project, selecting the software for content management and website creation. Lots of conversations between him, Peter and new advisors Johnathan Thayer and Marilyn Oliva helped selected us Omeka as the archivist software to use. The first version of the multimedia RHWS website may be Omeka itself. Much to learn and code in all this!
Johnathan Thayer teaches archival practice and preservation at Queens College and is the Senior Archivist at Seaman’s Church Institute, founded in 1834 which has thousands of items and oral histories in its collection. Despite all that content, they have nothing about Red Hook in their files – proof that PortSide’s project has something to contribute.
Regina Carra, a graduate student at CUNY Queens College studying Library Science and History, learned about RHWS from Johnathan and was so excited by the project that she rejiggered her schedule to work with us one day a week.
We have had long meetings and brainstorming sessions around the galley table to discuss what themes, issues and peoples to include so we know to look for such content and have the archive coded in advance to be ready to receive that kind of content. “War” and “”military,” how are they the same or different? With our focus on immigrants who arrived by water or worked on the waterfront, what do we do about the “non-ethnics,” the English or WASPS? How do we deal with false history (the errors so often repeated in the era of Google)?
Do we include a layer that explains sources so people can see that many a map or engraving that has been used to show “this was Red Hook” is an illustration of a plan, an intention, and did not yet exist? That kind of discussion is so pertinent to the resiliency (flood prep) aspect to Red Hook WaterStories.
As a water-aware organization, we planned to talk about underground water issues since we started this work in 2005. After superstorm Sandy, information about the historic filling of creeks, swamp and shoreline is very timely. It's key to understand that so many historic maps of Red Hook show a street grid of intentions over “land” that remained water and swamp into the 1900s. On a lighter note, in honor of our ship cat Chiclet and her devoted followers, we decided to add cat WaterStories. History needs to be fun too!
We have a bottomless font of facts and tips about the history in advisor Norman Brouwer, a noted maritime historian and the person who built the South Street Seaport library. He also has a personal collection of thousands of maritime postcards which we hope to access for illustrations.
Julia Golia, Director of Public History at the Brooklyn Historical Society, told us about resources in their archives and was receptive to partnering as they move ahead with their waterfront museum and waterfront history website in partnership with Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Melinda Boros, an immigrant from Romania, brings us a fresh perspective in her role as consultant. Red Hook was one of the first neighborhoods she found after emigrating in 1998. It's abandonment was something she expected in Ceaucescu’s Romania not the USA, so she dove deep into historical research to come to understand it. Barbara Wye, a recent grad in Anthropology and Digital Media Design with experience in community organizing around preservation, is helping with outreach, event planning and graphic design.
Many Red Hook WaterStories involve Spanish speakers, especially since the first point of arrival for Puerto Ricans in NYC was ships docking at Red Hook piers. Intern Ivy Ann Rosado, a senior at Hunter College of Dominican heritage is helping with this research and other aspects of the project.
We are interviewing more people for more video and oral histories. Jenny Kane leads the oral history work. John Weaver handles the video camera. Our President Carolina Salguero, an award-winning photojournalist in her prior career, does some of the interviewing.
If you, or someone you know has some Red Hook WaterStories to share, get in touch! WaterStories include: all things working waterfront (shipbuilding/repair, ports/freight movement, creation of ports/changing shoreline, merchant marine/worked on boats, ferries), emigrated here by ship, worked at waterfront facilities, played/fished/relaxed on the waterfront, waterfront religious rituals, drownings, Sandy experiences, created an art work or piece of literature inspired by the Red Hook waterfront.
This project is supported in part by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and funding from NYC Councilman Carlos Menchaca.
2015: the search is over. The future is now.
2015 was a year of major milestones and growth. See, read and feel it below.
The pivot point was the exhilarating move on May 29 in the video at right.
Our new site strengthens our ability to fulfill the PortSide vision of combining the working waterfront, public access and community development.
Please donate now and support our momentum!
The public access at our new home enables us to grow our educational programs. We hopped on it right away with outreach such as our Open House for Educators Week and researching new curricula. We gained new partners in the World Monuments Fund, the Williamsburgh HS of Architecture and Design (WHSAD), and Behind the Book. We had three summer interns from WHSAD and two college interns from Spain. We created a curriculum for simple machines aboard the MARY A. WHALEN and taught Hurricane Sandy & resiliency to elementary school kids. For adult job training, we furthered our relationship with the painters' union District Council 9.
WaterStories cultural programs
We secured $20,000 in funding from Councilman Carlos Menchaca to support our Red Hook WaterStories cultural tourism, placemaking and resiliency project. We were invited to join a historic ship flotilla that celebrated Cunard's 175th anniversary and got community members in the parade via our partner, the historic tug CORNELL. We curated and ran a great POW! weekend with TankerTours, TankerTime and gifted flamenco jazz musicians who have offered to make this an annual event. We produced a distinctive multimedia history night with Norwegian Red Hook WaterStories with bluegrass musicians from Norway, history speakers, and vintage video. Out shipcat Chiclet has become an attraction, with a growing fan club of regulars who come by to see her.
Volunteers repainted three cabins! Thank you, volunteers! Three summer interns from WHSAD did enormous work restoring the teak rail around the wheelhouse. The painters' union District Council 9 will repaint the exterior as a training excercise with paint donated by International Paint. DC9 scoped out the job, did some prep work, and laid plans for painting in 2016.
History: research, acquisitions & programs
History runs through so many of our programs: all events on the ship, programs such as our Norwegian Red Hook WaterStories night, info content we share on our Facebook and Twitter, our blogposts such the one about the important sale of slave ERIE ship in Atlantic Basin which marked an important step in the end of slavery in the USA. In 2015, we added considerably to Mary A. Whalen history: more former crew members found us (thanks to our new home): Engineer Bill Siebert who works on a Vane tug and retired, 86-year old, former relief captain Thomas J. Smith. Captain Smith donated his maritime papers to us, and we have taped hours of interviews with him. A big boost in the history department was the visit by Scott Gellatly and his wife Pat. They ran a waterborne fuel transportation company years ago and almost bought the MARY. The Gellatlys donated photos, recorded hours of interview and brought along retired engineer Bryan Sinram, another trove of history, who had worked for Eklof, the company that ran the MARY WHALEN for years. Walter Barschow donated the folk painting of the MARY aground in the slide show above and gave us leads on Red Hook WaterStories about his family that ran a scrap yard for decades, founded by his German immigrant grandmother. Karen Dyrland and John Weaver donated another large cache of photos, letters and documents from Alf Dyrland, Captain of the MARY from 1958-1978. And, our home, the historic tanker MARY A. WHALEN turned 77!
PortSide continued to inspire filmmakers, painters and multi-media artists. Most find us because they can now see us. The MARY A. WHALEN is visible from our new friends and partners Pioneer Works which leads to a steady stream of artists coming to brainstorm, photograph, get ideas, one even collects salt water for a printing project. We gave the title to the documentary film BLUESPACE and appeared in it. We invited painter Jim Ebersole to memorialize our final week in the Red Hook Containerport.
This important work does not generate inspiring, cuddly or sexy photos. It involves a slew of emails and hundreds of conversations that advance our vision for bringing change to NYC's waterfront. Some highlights: Our President Carolina Salguero was appointed to the Sunset Park Task Force whose first task was to advise the EDC on creating an RFP for SBMT. How's that for alphabet soup! The Task Force continues to meet to shape the Sunset Park waterfront and industrial waterfront district. PortSide provided info and advice on the siting of a Citywide ferry stop in Red Hook. We are engaged with the ongoing work of Red Hook's NY Rising committee. We had a photogenic policy gig by being a stop on Alex Washburn's OHNY Resiliency bike tour.
Capacity Building - great progress undergirds all the above!
Getting our new home in Atlantic Basin, has provided PortSide NewYork with much needed stability and allowed us to turn energies to growing PortSide's capacity. We grew the team with 2 board members and 4 advisory board members. We completed the long slog of paperwork of a FEMA Sandy Alternate Project application, along with other important funding applications. We were awarded $20,000 by Councilman Carlos Menchaca to support our Red Hook WaterStories project. In Late October, PortSide launched a year-long growth campaign #GetOnBoard. In December, we were awarded a competitive Regional Economic Development Council grant of $49,500 via the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. We scored new major sponsors in the Weather Channel and International Paint. There is strong growth in the number of entities reaching out to get involved: we have heard from college community service programs, schools, teachers and individuals.
Please donate now and support our momentum!