Volume 75, Number 30 | December 14 - 20, 2005

Villager photo by Jefferson Siegel

The Yankee Ferry was tugged to New Jersey from Pier 25 at N. Moore St. so that construction of the Tribeca section of the Hudson River Park can begin.

Trust puts on squeeze; Yankee strikes out for N.J.

By Josh Rogers

The historic Yankee Ferry left Tribeca Sat. Dec. 3 the same way it came into the neighborhood 15 years ago — pulled by a tugboat.

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-mile-long waterfront 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. They have 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, who is also a member of the Trust’s board of directors, told Downtown Express, an affiliated newspaper of The Villager, that 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 on the pier, a move that according to some jeopardized the Yankee, 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 at the authority’s Dec. 1 board meeting defending the Trust’s action and encouraging the Yankee’s owners to apply to return to the park in three years when the rebuilt 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 fragile vessel needs someone on board at all times.

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

Hostility with the Trust increased during the Yankee’s last few days on the pier as tug operators canceled on the MacKenzie-Childs several times either for weather or emergency calls. Trust officials locked the couple 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 off the power the couple’s last night in Tribeca.

Despite the acrimony, the MacKenzie-Childs hope to return to the park. Richard 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’s board who will bring the Yankee back somewhere in the park before the Tribeca section is completed in three years.

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