Seaport Report: March 2018

BY JANEL BLADOW

March certainly blew in like a lion. Snow. Wind. Rain. Blackouts. High seas. A perfect storm for a great sea tale.

Laura Sook Duncombe’s book “Pirate Women: The Princesses, Prostitutes, and Privateers Who Ruled the Seven Seas” is the subject of the South Street Seaport Museum’s March 8 Book Talk.

ARRRG!… Who doesn’t like a good pirate story? We grew up on the sagas of Blackbeard, Captain Hook and Long John Silver. But did you know that many a great pirate was a woman? “I have a life-long love of pirates,” author Laura Sook Duncombe told Seaport Report. “It started with Mary Martin as Peter Pan. The pirates always looked as if they were having the most fun. Who wouldn’t want to be one?” Duncombe turned her fascination into a two year project, and discovered an unknown world of women who ruled the high seas during the heyday of piracy — looting, pillaging, running slave ships, even commanding massive flotillas.

Duncombe comes to the Seaport Thursday, March 8, for a rip-roaring talk about her book, “Pirate Women: The Princesses, Prostitutes, and Privateers Who Ruled the Seven Seas.” She’ll detail the influence these lady pirates had on world history and even tell a tale or two. “Women took to piracy for as many reasons as there were women on the seas,” she said. “Adventure. Financial. Escape hardships. Then, like today, gender roles had a stranglehold on society. Imagine wearing those corsets at the time then being able to go aboard a ship and put on pants? It had to be freeing. Being able to climb up rigging was too intoxicating to resist. For many of them, they could make their own way in society. For some, it was the only way to make money.”

Duncombe, who worked on Maiden Lane 10 years ago and would often walk along the East River promenade to watch the ships, said one of the best known women pirates came from our own cobbled streets — Sadie Farrell. “She was known as Sadie the Goat because she would head butt enemies to get her way. She grew up in the Gangs of New York era, frequented Five Points and the South Street Seaport. She was a product of our love affair with pirates. Everything she knew about piracy she learned from reading. She was the only known pirate to make her victims walk the plank. She learned that from ‘Treasure Island’ (by Robert Louis Stevenson).” Legend has it that hers was among the ears bitten off by Gallus Mag Perry, proprietor of the pirate bar, Hole in the Wall Saloon, at 275 Water Street (last known as the Bridge Cafe, sadly the city’s longest running bar has been closed since Hurricane Sandy). Perry kept them in a pickle jar on the bar. “When Sadie retired, she went and apologized to Perry. Mag gave back her ear. And Sadie wore it on a strap around her neck.” As the mom of a two-year old son, Duncombe said she was thrilled to learn that so many of the women pirates were working moms. “They’d have their children on the ship. They were able to have a career they loved while they cared for their children.” South Street Seaport Museum “Book Talks: Pirate Women” is Thursday, March 8, 6:30 pm, at the Melville Gallery, 213 Water St. Tickets are $10 (free for members), order https://southstreetseaportmuseum.org/book-talks-at-the-seaport-museum/.

A PICTURE IS WORTH… What used to be a parking lot is now a trendsetting new building. “Exhibit”  at 60 Fulton St. calls itself “the city’s first curated rental residence, a dynamic celebration of the Downtown art, music, culture, and style that made New York City the capital of the world.” It boasts rarely seen, fine art photography in its lobby, gym and on each residential floor. Curator Jody Britt drew on her relationships with more than 200 iconic photographers worldwide, to realize her vision — to “tell a story about a time when New York City was culturally, socially and artistically unmatched in its freedom, bravery and ground-breaking uniqueness.” I spoke with Britt, a photo rep specializing in pop culture for 10 years, who said she was pulled into the project 18 months ago by the building’s developer. “That he wanted to pay homage to New York City, that’s what makes this so incredible,” she said.

The new residential development at at 60 Fulton St. boasts rarely seen, fine art photography throughout the building — such as this image of the Rolling Stones at Danceteria in the lobby.

Britt went through thousands of photos of the changing landscape of the city from more than four decades ago. She settled on 103 fine art prints by five photographers who documented the city from the late Sixties through the early Eighties. Among the photographers are my friend Allan Tannenbaum (we worked together at the Soho Weekly News — he’s an award-winning international photojournalist) and the late Fred McDarrah (The Village Voice). Britt said that she was looking for photos that told a story. “Photos of iconic people in ways we’re not used to seeing them. There’s a black and white image of the Rolling Stones at Danceteria in the lobby, being as ridiculously cool as can be. Another of Run DMC by an ice cream truck.” There’s even a massive photo mural in the building’s gym. “Allan Tannenbaum made this eight-foot by twelve-foot fine print on canvas of boxer Mohammad Ali alongside a unique proof sheet of him in training.” Britt (www.brittfineartconsulting.com) says Exhibit is giving these photographers their due. “They were documenting the history of the city. Looking back, one has to be inspired.” Many of the images are on the building’s web site and are available to buy. But most of us won’t be able to see them in person. It’s a private building (already 75-percent leased). “There’s been discussions with the developer about an exhibit. These are important. Everyone should be able to see them,” she said. Agreed.

THE TIN MAN FALLS… Lots of chatter this week about the Tin Building (South Street between Fulton & Beekman Sts.) coming down. Neighbors and friends of the Seaport worry that this historic building would disappear. Here’s the latest as more of the facade falls, baring I-beams. The Tin Building is being dismantled and removed so that the platform it sits on at Pier 17 can be reconstructed and brought above the flood plane. Howard Hughes Corp. has all the approvals needed from the city. It will be raised, moved further east (away from FDR Drive) and rebuilt. The hope is to save as much of the original building as possible. The esplanade in front will continue and a service road for commercial deliveries only will go around to the back. The plan is to make the building a food market. To view the plans: http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/manhattancb1/downloads/pdf/studies-and-reports/hhc-tin-lpc-1-19-16.pdf.

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