Fishermen: Don’t move Fire Fighter to railroad dock

05/31/2013 3:37 PM |

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Fire Fighter is currently docked at Mitchell Park Marina.

The decommissioned New York City fireboat Fire Fighter was a popular attraction at Mitchell Park Marina this Memorial Day weekend, but plans to move the boat to the commercial railroad dock came under fire during Tuesday’s Village Board meeting.

The contract between the village and the Fireboat Fire Fighter Museum to dock the vessel at Mitchell Park Marina will expire in June, according to Mayor David Nyce. Since its arrival in Greenport in February, the plan has been to ultimately move Fire Fighter to a permanent berth at the railroad dock near the East End Seaport Museum.

The relocation of the 120-foot ship, now a nonprofit floating museum, is pending a determination by Suffolk County on whether it can dock at the railroad pier. The county leases the railroad dock to the village for a token fee of $1 per year, according to Mayor David Nyce. In exchange, Greenport maintains the dock. The county, however, is the final authority on who can use the dock — which is intended exclusively for commercial fishermen — and it has the right to refuse any sublease agreement the village enters into regarding the railroad dock.

The possible move drew outrage from fisherman Sidney Smith, who said he believes there’s an overlooked problem with electrolysis in the water surrounding the pier. Electrolysis can cause premature rusting and deterioration of metal boat materials. Built in 1937, Fire Fighter has a riveted hull, the same material used to construct the Titanic, Mr. Smith pointed out during the meeting. Furthermore, the boat has not been hauled out in more than 12 years.

“No one knows the condition of the bottom [of Fire Fighter],” he said.

Mayor Nyce said after the meeting that though the boat had not been hauled out it was inspected last fall.

Mr. Smith is ultimately concerned moving Fire Fighter would take space away from commercial fishermen. He argued that allowing the floating museum to moor at the railroad dock would violate Greenport’s Waterfront Revitalization Act, which was enacted to protect its working waterfront.

“We will make sure anything we write protects the village,” Mr. Nyce said. “We will discuss with the current tenants at the railroad dock to figure out if there is enough room. We think there is.”

The railroad dock is in need of extensive repairs and the village hopes the lease agreement will help fund its restoration, according to the mayor.

Mr. Nyce said he is meeting with Suffolk County officials before the contract is set to expire on June 6.

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