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Is New York City Turning its Back on its Maritime Roots?

by Chris O'Brien

In my work I have faced one comIr is the people of New York who are mon obstacle-securing usable pier space missing out. Last year a fleet of rail ships for large visiting vessels of interest. What sailed past New York because of its lack of is a vessel of interest you ask? To me, a pier space. This year, "Fleet Week" nearly vessel of interest wo uld include tall ships, took place in Red Hook, Brooklyn. In military vessels of all shapes and sizes, as 2007, another fleet of tall ships will probwell as other vessels that bring some sort ably sail by New York, bound for Boston, of cultural/social enrichment to the City if no berths are to be had. of New York with their visits. New Yorkers have made extraordiTrying to find pier space for a visiting nary efforts to revitalize their waterfront vessel of interest in NYC is like shopping with the construction of parks and open for diamonds in the pickle district-you areas-even the rebuilding of some piers. pro bably aren't going to find any dia- These efforts have stopped short, however, monds and, if yo u do, they're l' H OT O COURTES Y OF N YC .GOV likely to look something like a pickle. Some say it all started as our waters began to recover from the effects of decades of pollution and the return of the marine borer, a small creature that loves to eat wooden pilings. Although welcomed by the naturalists, the marine borer helped drive the final Abandoned city piers in New York nail in the coffin of most of the old city piers. Since their return, the disap- of bridging the gap and actually embracpearance of our piers has been remarkable. ing the waterfront. Instead, they have sysManhattan shores, once lined with work- tematically erected a barrier berween New ing piers, now yield only a small handful, Yorkers and New York's waters. These efwhich are in extremely high demand by forts are making no provisions to receive our ever-growing cruise industry and tour- vessels of any kind. ist/commuter ferry industry. These are our If New York City continues to ignore the need for maritime uses of these few only remaining working piers. New York City was built on trade and piers that remain, we will have seen the its robust maritime industry that enabled end of the grand spectacle of OpSail tall it. As the trade industry transitioned out ship events, Fleet Week events, and historof the city, its piers were abandoned and ic ship visits of all kinds. We must lobby condemned. My greatest concern is that for the few remaining piers, slated for reNew York C ity is abandoning its maritime building, to be rebuilt with maritime uses roots-its piers; it has turned its back on in mind. We must insist that New York the great ships that built it. not turn its back on its maritime roots.

Rail-Marine Information Group Documenting the transportation of railroad freight and equipment over water Publi shing Transfer featuring: • Car Ferrie s Car Floa ts Railroad Tugboats Li ghters & Barges Terminals Histories Reviews of Literature and Products Geographical Bibliographies For more in fo rmati on including a complete list of back issues and index to Transfer go to: www.tra inweb .org/rmig E-mail : rmi


Chris OBrien is the former Executive Director of OpSail. He served in the Coast Guard as a Marine Inspector in New York Harbor; he also served with the Navy as the Director ofFleet Week N ew York.


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