Seaport Report: August 2017

BY JANEL BLADOW

We’re zipping through summer faster than the A train can get us to 14th Street. A bummer on both counts.

TELL ’EM JOE SENT YA… Shhh! Don’t tell anyone, but our little nabe has its own unique speakeasy. Mr. Cannon opened three weeks ago. To get to this wonderful, dark throwback cocktail bar, you have to mosey into Cannon Walk off Front Street and make a left into the bricked back-alley. Find the black door and ring the blue-lit doorbell to gain entry.

On a recent night I met a couple who have lived in the Seaport eight years and love the whole vibe. “Definitely a lot of locals come here late at night,” said bartender Tara Wright. “We want to be a neighborhood place.” The lounge is going for a late-night, sophisticate scene. Retro vibe and drinks with a modern twist make the place feel really cool. Black leather and velvet couches line two exposed-brick walls. Each has a coffee table and mid-century style comfy chairs, giving the seating areas a cool, romantic, living-room look. Signature cocktails include “The Longshoreman” (Belvedere Vodka with infused rose, green chili vodka and a touch of cinnamon) and “Cannon Smoke” (mezcal mix with black lava salt). “We don’t want to be a stuffy place,” said bar director Christopher Kearns. “We’re all about having a really good time. We want to be everyone’s home away from home.” Mr. Cannon (open 5 pm to 2 am daily) is the bar servicing the Seaport Food Lab series. Right now the speakeasy is set to be around through December, but they hope it catches on and becomes a neighborhood hangout. PS… the address is 206 Front St. But I didn’t tell ya!

Photo by Janel Bladow
Jesse Lebovics, Director of Historic Ships at the South Street Seaport Museum, will direct a major rehab of the 87-year-old tugboat W.O. Decker.

A TUG WITH HEART… South Street Seaport Museum recently announced it received a $200,000 Maritime Heritage Grant from the National Park Service and a matching grant from a private donor to restore the only NYC-born-and-bred ship in its fleet — the 87-year-old tugboat W.O. Decker.

“W.O. Decker is the last surviving New York-built wooden tugboat, and a key part of our fleet of ships that tell the story of where New York begins,” said Capt. Jonathan Boulware, executive director of the museum. Paired with a $200,000 challenge grant from George A. Matteson, author “Tugboats of New York,” the two grants get the 1930 wooden tug to the shipyard for much needed repairs. While the actual project budget will eventually exceed that $400,000, “these two funds will get the project started and take care of the bulk of the work,” said Boulware.

On a recent sunny morning, I went to visit the Decker. Showing me around the humble little tug was Jesse Lebovics, Director of Historic Ships at the museum. Lebovics was with SSSM in the 1990s, went off to another adventure, and returned to the museum last year. He has a great appreciation for historic ships, as his knowledge of the little tug showed. “The tug was first known as Russell 1 and you can see that name still stamped on her bow. But the ship was renamed in honor of William Oscar of the Decker Towing Company. It’s the last existing wooden NY tug in operating order, the end of boats built in Newtown Creek as late as the 1930s. And it’s still being used to tow Seaport assets, including the Pioneer.” Lebovics said the grant money will be used to reinforce the mooring bits that pier lines are tied to and redecking. “The pilothouse will be removed and repaired. We have here a real boat and want to keep as much as possible,” he said. Working with a photo of “her in her day,” Lebovics said shipbuilders will attempt get the right shades of mustard yellow, burgundy red, green for the rails and black for the hull. She has no horn but signals with whistles from a series of ropes and wooden levers. And while a modern tug would have bow thrusters, she runs on a 285 horsepower engine. “She’s a diminutive tug,” he added. “I hear ‘cute’ a lot. But she’s an unsung workhorse of New York harbor.” Yes, the little tug that could.

ON SELF-TAP… At the Seaport, you no longer have to belly up the bar for a beer, score the attention of an overworked bartender, or push through a throng of happy hour revelers only to learn that the tap to your favorite brew ran dry five minutes earlier. Now you cam saunter over to Front and Fulton Sts. and pull your own draft. Clinton Hall (19 Fulton St., clintonhallny.com) installed self-service beer taps recently, and on a warm summer night last week, the 10 taps were flowing. How it works: you go to the cashier buy a beer card with your credit card or ApplePay (they don’t take cash and there’s a $10 minimum). You get the pre-paid card and an empty plastic pint cup. Then head over to the taps, insert the card in the slot above the spout and viola! A pour-your-own brewski. Craft beer choices include ciders, lagers, IPAs, pale ales, wheats and more, on a rotation of 20 types by Schoffhofer. I had “the world’s first Hefeweizen Grapefruit” beer. Light, refreshing, with a zing. Beer vending machines are here for the summer season. Like other self-pour breweries sprouting up around the city, Clinton Hall’s “beer ATMs” are a trend worth cheering at about $8 a pop. Tap in seven days a week, noon to 10 pm.

REBRANDED… Howard Hughes Corporation has joined the throngs of real estate agents looking for hip, cool, new names for long-time NYC neighborhoods. South Street Seaport is no longer, according to the developer. HHC has made it known it would prefer that you now refer to the area as “Seaport District.” Guess to link us up with the Financial District? Does this mean the acronym becomes “SeDi”? Or “SeaDi?” …maybe “CDi?” Some of these fancy new names are just silly. Look at the brouhaha after the area south of Harlem was rebranded “SoHa.” I’m sure tourists and newcomers will buy into it, but for a lot of us who have been around the hood for decades, it’s still same South Street Seaport to us.

What do you think, dear readers?

COOL SOUNDS… The free summer concert series continues. Look for live music near the Garden Bar, Fulton at Front Street. Coming up Thursday is Breanna Barbara followed by Gedeon Luke and the People on Saturday, and Southern Avenue the following Thursday (8/17). Those show begin at 6 pm. Concerts are scheduled through mid-September. Look for more artists to be added. Check out listings at: https://www.southstreetseaport.com/EVENTS/summermusic.html.

Photo by Janel Bladow
Clinton Hall has brought the convenience of self-serve “beer ATMs” to the Seaport.

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3 Responses to Seaport Report: August 2017

  1. Re: “Re-branded.” I concur. Leave well-enough alone. Look at the ill-fated rebranding of Sixth Avenue as Avenue of the Americas, which only tourists seem to use. [It’s also Lenox Avenue and Malcolm X Boulevard uptown.] I’m rebranding Manhattan as Nieuwe Amsterdam.

  2. On behalf of Save Our Seaport, what is missing in the rebranding of the South Street Seaport Historic District are all the things that make this neighborhood uniquely authentic:
    History, maritime, museum, waterfront, tall ships and historic vessels, landmark neighborhood…basically everything that makes the South Street Seaport Historic District special! This rebranding is an insult to the foundation of this great country; America’s Maritime History.

  3. It is and should always be the South Street Seaport. Stop with all the other nonsense!

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