Seaport Report

Photo by Milo Hess The tree lighting at the South Street Seaport brightened a rainy night on Dec. 1.

Photo by Milo Hess
The tree lighting at the South Street Seaport brightened a rainy night on Dec. 1.

By Janel Bladow

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around the Seaport with all the beautiful decorations popping up. Tuesday night’s 32nd-annual tree lighting ceremony on Fulton Street always tops my list of the best way to kick off a favorite season.

This year, NBC4’s Lauren Scala did the hosting honors. Lights twinkled on the 60-foot tree, dressed in white, nickel and champagne-colored geometric ornaments and topped with an asymmetric star for the theme “Constellation of the District.” Music and performances from acapella group The Mistletones to American Idol winner Nick Fradiani got all in the groove. But nothing compared to the special appearance by Santa Claus.

Treasure chest… Earlier on Tuesday, the South Street Seaport Museum held a special one-day holiday installation to celebrate Giving Tuesday. At the Visitor Center at 12 Fulton St. mid-nineteenth century to early twentieth century toys, ship models, graphic art, and other objects from its extensive collection were on view all afternoon. Cast iron, tin, and carved wooden toys and banks, ship models of ferries, barges and tugboats of New York Harbor were artfully arrayed around the center. Besides the fun toys, the antique post cards and clipper cards of the area were super eye candy.

“The Seaport Museum has a fascinating and unique collection of artifacts that tell the story of New York, which was a port before it was a city,” said Captain Jonathan Boulware, executive director of the Seaport Museum.

“This special one-day exhibition will showcase artifacts from that collection and will set the stage for our upcoming exhibition on the 1885 ship Wavertree and the role of ships like her in the Golden Age of the Seaport. We’re making real progress at the Seaport Museum and these projects are a part of that.”

Bigger boats… And on that note, last month Seaport Museum announced that the 1911 barque Peking is heading home to Hamburg, Germany. The country’s government allocated funds to support a new waterfront museum with the Peking as its centerpiece. (Take a hint Washington and Albany! Support the Seaport Museum!) For Capt. Boulware, the parting is bittersweet.

“After nearly ten years of effort to find her a new home, we’re thrilled that the mighty barque Peking will go to a responsible and appropriate home,” began his announcement. But it continued: “South Street Seaport Museum has long worked to maintain a fleet of well-maintained, relevant historic ships at her East River piers. The idea of recreating the “Street of Ships” is an important one, but what is clear is that two huge sailing ships are a crushing burden of maintenance.”

With the $13-million, city-funded restoration of 1885 ship Wavertree underway in Staten Island, something had to give. The Wavertree called NYC and Downtown its home port. She comes back to her berth in mid-2016 all sparkly and spanking clean.

“Peking will return to Hamburg, the city of her birth, and there be cared for in much the same way. This is good for the Seaport Museum and it’s good for Peking,” noted the captain.

The museum is currently developing an exhibition in preparation for Wavertree’s return. We learned that it will cover the Golden Age of the Seaport, the role of ships like Wavertree in New York’s rise to prominence, and interactive video on the current Wavertree project.

Bulldogs are back… Strut, swagger and slobber take over the season at Salty Paw on Saturday (Dec. 5, noon to 3 p.m.). At the Peck Slip Plaza, mutts, masters and mascots will gather for the annual pup holiday extravaganza. This year’s festivities benefit the Mid-Atlantic Bulldog Rescue and Bumper Bulldog Rescue.

Pet portrait photographer Conni Freestone snaps photos of pets with a real-bearded Santa. She also exhibits her pastel pet portraiture. Can you say “Christmas gift idea?”

Get a free wellness check for your critter from the docs of Downtown Veterinary Hospitals. Travel the holiday-themed fun course with your pooch by celebrity dog trainer Travis Brorsen, winner of TV’s Greatest American Dog Trainer competition. Also on hand will be vendors and lots of freebies for your fur baby.

It’s the ugliest sweater day so both you and your pooch put on your sloppiest, silliest rag and join the fun. Prizes are for the best — or worst — ugliest sweaters in both four and two-legged categories. Even if you don’t have a dog or an ugly Christmas sweater, come out, it’s a howl!

Seaport scenes… See Ellen Bradshaw’s moody and mind-blowing oil paintings “Visions from the South Street Seaport,” on display at 21 Fulton St. through Dec. 31. The artist, influenced by the realism of the Ashcan painters of the Roaring 20s era and the color and atmosphere of the Impressionists, is drawn to New York City. “The reflective, moody, quirky streets of Lower Manhattan are my usual subjects — the neighborhoods, the personalities of her buildings, the majesty of her bridges, the streets transformed by snow or the colors of night, the lone figures of daily routine…” she writes on her web page. The images from eerie, barren South Street with snow under the FDR to the tips of the Brooklyn Bridge peeking through clouds are stunning. And inspire visions of a great Christmas gift.

S.O.S. joins petition… Save Our Seaport asks supporters to go to the web and sign the “New Yorkers for a Human-scale City” petition supported by more than 20 organizations from the Bronx to Staten Island.  “To prevent our beloved city from being recklessly overdeveloped….responsible citizens are banding together to fight the exploitation of our metropolis!” goes the plea.

“It’s the same fight being fought all over New York City,” David Sheldon, a spokesperson for S.O.S. told me. “We’re dealing with private interested overdeveloping public access areas of the city. Joining a coalition seemed to make sense to us. It’s something we all face living in NYC.”

The “New Coalition” petition calls on the Mayor to “prioritize and develop zoning changes,” and political clubs to “to field candidates for all offices who are willing to challenge the power and influence that the real estate lobby has accrued within our government.” To see the full petition, go to http://www.humanscale.nyc/.

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