Volume 18 • Issue 30 | December 9 - 15, 2005

Downtown Express photos by Jefferson Siegel

The Yankee Ferry was tugged to New Jersey Saturday so construction of the Hudson River Park could begin.

Waiting for cries of ‘Yankee come home’

The historic Yankee Ferry left Tribeca Sat., Dec. 3 on a tug boat — the same way it came into the neighborhood 15 years ago.

The Hudson River Park Trust closed the Yankee’s home at Pier 25 at the end of October to begin construction on the Tribeca section of the 5.5-mile riverside park.

Richard MacKenzie-Childs, who owns the ship with his wife Victoria, said “people are wonderful here,” referring to his new landlord and neighbors across the river at Lincoln Harbor Marina in Weehawken, N.J. He has a home there until the spring when the 98-year-old vessel will have to make way for another ship.

City Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, also a member of the Trust’s board of directors, told Downtown Express he is hoping to find a home for the Yankee in Staten Island at Sailor’s Snug Harbor, a former sailors’ retirement home that now has a children’s museum.

Benepe defended the actions of the trust’s president, Connie Fishman, and her staff, who at one point locked the owners in, a move that according to some eopardized a vessel on the National Register of Historic Places. He said the Trust couldn’t risk delaying the park’s construction by going to court. “They had to get them out,” he said.

Fishman distributed a statement to board members and the public last week defending the Trust’s action and encouraging the Yankee’s owners to apply to return to the park in three years when Pier 25 will reopen – provided they comply with state law forbidding people to live in Hudson River Park.

Owners of the Yankee have always maintained that the delicate vessel needs someone on board at all times.

“It seems like a very natural thing to have at a marina,” MacKenzie-Childs said about living on a boat.

Hostility with the Trust increased the Yankee’s last few days on the pier as tug operators canceled on MacKenzie-Childs several times either for weather or emergency calls. Trust officials locked him and his wife onto the pier again although they allowed the couple to come and go at night when there was no construction activity near the pier. Con Edison complied with the Trust’s request to cut the power the couple’s last night in Tribeca.

Despite the acrimony, MacKenzie-Childs hopes to return to the park. He said compared to many ports around the world, New York City has few places to see ships “There’s virtually nothing on the west side of Manhattan,” he said. “There’s just of a lot of empty piers.”

Julie Nadel, a member of the boards of both the Trust and the North River Historic Ship Society, said she hopes when a new governor takes office in a year, he or she will appoint new members to the Trust who will bring the Yankee back somewhere in the park before the Tribeca section is completed in three years.

—Josh Rogers


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