2016 year in photos at PortSide NewYork!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.
"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.
Last Veteran's Day, we covered the subject of a class of largely-forgotten maritime veterans, the women, children, elderly and disabled mariners who served during WWII.
Below, we provide an update on the cause to finally get recognition for all of them, thanks to info provided by Don Horton who first brought this story, and cause, to our attention. Don Horton was one of those child mariners, serving on a barge with his mother, father and siblings.
Our post from Veteran's Day 2013
Our 9/15/14 interview with Don Horton during his visit to Red Hook, Brooklyn where we took him to various sites that were strongly stamped in his memory.
What you can do for this cause
You can write /call your respective US Senator and ask that they co-sponsor Senate Amendment Sa-3548. This is the amendment that can provide the avenue to allow for alternative methods of recognition for WW II coastwise mariners. It is a copy of S-1361, WW II Merchant Mariners Service Act. Background and Alternative Methods of Recognition, July 2014
The following info is from Don Horton
The bills before Congress
Both the House of Representatives and the Senate offered bills in in support of these veterans, HR 1288 and S-1361, WW II Merchant Mariners Service Act. HR 1288 was amended in to HR 4435, 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and this bill cleared the House with the amendment intact and is awaiting Senate action for comparison with the Senate NDAA S 2410.
S -1361 was introduced by Senator Chris Murphy, D-CT back in March, 2014.
In May of 2014, Chairman Senator Levin and Ranking Member Senator Inhofe of the the Senate Committee on Armed Forces selected a large block of amendments for possible inclusion in what is commonly referred to as a Manager’s package. This package includes certain Bills and amendments that are generally favored by specific groups or members of the Senate. S 1361 was not included within that group.
Shortly afterward in July, Senator Murphy introduced Senate Amendment Sa-3548. but after the offering of the ”Managers Package”.
We are awaiting the Senatorial debate on the floor to see if they will consider any more amendments or not. With this late bit of information, we immediately set about to reach out to all cosponsors of S 1361 (5) and request they come aboard Sa-3548 as cosponsors. Next we asked each member of the Senate Committee of Armed Forces to become Cosponsors and finally we are asking the remainder of the Senate to become cosponsors to Senator Murphy’s Amendment.
It is our hope to obtain sufficient co-sponsors to bring attention to the exhaustive efforts to have these mariners be given their promised recognition, by court order and many congressional speeches, proclaiming full and unequivocal support for our veterans.
I received an email from the Fleet Reserves that states the Senate version S 2410 of the NDAA may be brought to the floor and may allow debate and issuance of additional amendments. This is a departure from past Senate actions and good news for us. Congress is scheduled for convening on 12 November. I attempted to have this confirmed by Senate contacts but was unable. They neither confirmed nor denied.
How many mariners are we talking about?
No one knows either how many served or how many were lost. GAO asked the Coast Guard to identify how many served during WW II and they could only tell them how many credentials were issued during 1939 to 1946, about 840,000, but stated they had no idea how many served in enemy contested waters. Historians settled on about 250,000 serving who may be entitled to veteran recognition. To date about 91,000 have been recognized as veterans.
No one can state how many were lost and presumed dead. Numbers range from around 5200 to about 9500. We have documentation that demonstrates that New York lost about 1300 of the numbers of 5200. That is an eye opening figure for anyone to digest. I have provided names of those from New York who were lost and the very few who have been recognized as veterans.
Request to Veterans affairs Committees of Senate and House regarding bills HR 2189 & S 1361
Women, children and disabled WWII merchant mariners
Friday, 10/18/13, out of the blue, PortSide received an email from Don Horton looking for help acknowledging the work of women, children, and elderly handicapped seamen who he says served on tugs and barges along the coast under threat of attacks by German U-boats. Don Horton, a retired Director of Occupational Safety & Health for the Department of Defense, is seeking urgent support for two bills before the US Congress which would recognize the service of these mariners. Recognition honors recipients and gives them the status of US veteran with benefits limited to medals and burial benefits.
The Senate is likely to vote on October 30th, and the House could vote at any time.
[see 10/29 and 10/30 updates about Congressional votes and 11/2/13 MoveOn.org petition at bottom]
He seeks letters of support to the congressmen
on the Veterans Affairs Committees. Horton says the seamen, whose records were destroyed by government order, are another category seeking recognition. Able-bodied, adult, male seamen were recognized in 1988. The Senate is likely to vote on October 30th, and the House could vote
at any time. The extraordinary story of these mariners also shines a
light on the waterfront history of Red Hook, of Brooklyn and of the port
of New York as a whole.
Horton was one of those children who served on tugs and barges along the coast under threat of attacks by German U-boats. Don Horton is originally from Pennsylvania and now lives in North Carolina. He began working on a coastwise barge as a ten-year-old alongside his family in 1942; and his mother was one of those women.
Read Don Horton's vivid WWII memories of anchoring off
Red Hook, Brooklyn and rowing into Erie Basin to shop on Van Brunt
Dear Fellow Mariners,
Once again I am reaching out to my fellow seafarers in hopes of finding some who may be interested in helping us find those few remaining mariners from WW II. Many of those mariners were women, some were schoolchildren that stood up for this country and also helped to lay the foundation for women seafarers around the world.
We now have a bill in both sides of congress. It has taken over 5 years and three sessions of congress and this may be our last chance to bring recognition to these few remaining mariners. The setup is rather complicated and far from me to truly understand.
If you recall we started out with a stand alone bill HR 1288 but during the process it was incorporated into another one 2086 headed up by Tina Titus of NV. Within a week it was incorporated into still another HR 2189 that deals with problems within the VA. This bill is headed up by Jeff Miller of FL who also is the Chair of the House Vets Committee and has cleared the subcommittee and is at the floor level waiting hearings. S-1361 is heading for hearing in the Committee late this month. Both bills have few cosponsors and I have no idea if that is good or not. I had 94 cosponsors on HR 1288 and was incorporated into 2086 that had only 12 and then into 2189 with only 4. I have added 4 more to 2189 but have hit a snag. Seems that most of our leaders in congress may say they reach out across party lines but when it get down to doing it the lines grow silent.
In any case we are farther along than ever before but need some help. As I recall in my email of last year I indicated we needed letters sent out to the various members of congress asking for their support either by cosponsoring these two bills or having the VSO write letters of support to the two committees saying the same. We need similar help and I am again reaching out to you for help in helping those that came before you. Will you help me? I have submitted some testimony to the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs that provides some light on how I see picture and asked it be submitted for the record. They have acknowledged receipt and mention they will review. I have attached it to share with you in hopes you can find enough info to assist in sending some good ole letters or make some calls.
Will you help us? The time is very short as the Senate meeting is scheduled for the last of this month. The House vote can be at any time. Please let me know if you can help. Thanking you in Advance.
Good luck at your meeting also at the end of the Month.
My very Best Regards,
J. Don Horton,
President WWII Coastwise Merchant Mariners
104 Riverview Ave, Camden, NC 27921
252 336 5553
Letters of support:
11/2/13 MoveOn.org petition
0/30 update from Don Horton
RESULTS FROM US SENATE VETERANS AFFAIRS COMMITTEE HEARING ON 30 OCT. 2013 for S-1361 "WW II Merchant Mariners Service Act"
Military Officers of America Association: Supports S 1361
Disabled American Veterans: DAV does not have a resolution on this issue and takes no position on 1361. Note NC DAV approved a state resolution but National turned it down, essentially turning its back on WW I merchant mariners.
Department of Veterans Affairs: VA defers to the Views of the DHS regarding Section 3 of this bill.
Vietnam Veterans of America: VVA has favored such legislation conferring full veteran status on these individuals for almost thirty years, and now urges swift passage of this measure before all of them of dead and gone.
Veteran of Foreign Wars: Did not make a statement on S-1361.
NEXT STEP IS UNKNOWN. WILL ADVISE ALL WHEN APPRISED.
October 29 update from Don Horton
Dear F/B fans. Yesterday we were successful in having the US House vote and pass HR 2189. This bill had an amendment within, HR 1288 “WW II Merchant Mariners Service Act. It received an overwhelming majority vote of 404 to 1 in favor and the bill is now on its way to the Senate.
The next step is: tomorrow the US Senate will conduct Hearings on S 1361 “WW II Merchant Mariners Service Act”, an identical bill to HR 1288 that was amended into HR 2189. It is scheduled for 2 PM and can be viewed on C-span if anyone desires to watch. We have come a long way to correct a travesty ongoing for over 70 years.
Many thanks to all the cosponsors of HR 1288 for staying the course and seeing this bill through the House and on to the Senate. I owe you a debt of gratitude.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed to see this one also hit out of the park. Thanks for all your help.