03/01/14 6:00am
03/01/2014 6:00 AM
Fire Fighter docked in Greenport Village. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

Fire Fighter docked in Greenport Village. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

Fire Fighter is America’s fireboat. Presumptuous, maybe, but Fire Fighter represents everything about America that was and is good.

Charles Ritchie

Charles Ritchie

The die was cast for Fire Fighter. Laid down at the height of the shipbuilding industry in a country approaching World War II and designed by premier Naval architect William Francis Gibbs, she was bound for greatness — and great things she did. A National Historic Landmark since 1989, a Gallant Ship award recipient in 1974 and one of the Heroes of the Harbor who came to the aid of those embedded in the tragedy of 9/11, this vessel is truly the most famous fi re-boat in the world.

(more…)

02/27/14 6:00am
02/27/2014 6:00 AM

The view from Bay Ridge in Brooklyn looking out at the burning SS Sea Witch in 1973. (Photo via disasterhx.blogspot.com)

To the editor:

Fire Fighter saved my father’s life, and those of many other men, on the morning of June 2, 1973.

George W. Spears was the 2nd mate on the ill-fated SS Sea Witch that collided with the SS Esso Brussels in the Hudson River underneath the Verrazano Bridge. (more…)

02/16/14 1:00pm
02/16/2014 1:00 PM
Fire Fighter is currently docked at the railroad dock in Greenport, but not for much longer. (Photo by Katharine Schroeder)

Fire Fighter is currently docked at the railroad dock in Greenport, but not for much longer. (Photo by Katharine Schroeder)

I was saddened but also amused by the report in your Feb. 6 paper about the fate of Fire Fighter, the fireboat with a decades-long history of service to New York City’s fire department. The fireboat was intended to be a platform for educating the public about firefighting history and service, but also a harborfront attraction for the village and its visitors. For sure, the fireboat sending geysers of water into the air from its many pumps was a unique sight to see. (more…)

12/05/13 6:00am
12/05/2013 6:00 AM
KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | The fireboat Fire Fighter, when it was docked at Mitchell Park Marina in Greenport.

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | The fireboat Fire Fighter, when it was docked at Mitchell Park Marina in Greenport.

To the editor:

It saddens me that the end appears near for the fireboat Fire Fighter’s stay in Greenport. I think it’s an outstanding idea for a maritime village to have a living piece of maritime history on display on its “working waterfront.”

If you take a look at most major maritime communities — Mystic, Baltimore and New York, to name a few — they all have some sort of floating showpiece that attracts a crowd.

Having the Fire Fighter around would really make Greenport stand out.

In addition, if the Fire Fighter were able to remain at the county-owned dock, all three Southold Town school districts could try to use her as a floating classroom for their curriculum. It saddens me that my son will miss out on the opportunity to have real, hands-on, maritime learning experiences while he is growing up in a community that loves to tout its connection the sea. Finally, I find it very surprising that suddenly there is such a demand for commercial dock space in Greenport. Just a short time ago, The Suffolk Times reported that Greenport (like many other New York ports) is having fewer commercial fishing boats calling it home since the cost to operate in New York State is higher.

Tom Loreto, Cutchogue

12/04/13 1:45pm
12/04/2013 1:45 PM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Fire Fighter is currently docked at the railroad dock with out permission.

Just when the situation looked like it couldn’t get worse for the Historic New York City fireboat Fire Fighter docked in Greenport, its insurance company is threatening to drop its coverage by the end of the month, museum president Charlie Ritchie said Wednesday.

The decommissioned fireboat-turned-nonprofit museum now needs to raise roughly $100,000 by January to have the boat raised out of the water and properly inspected, or risk losing its policy.

The blow comes just weeks after the county’s attorney office issued a letter stating that the vessel would need to vacate the commercial dock, or county would pursue “all means available” to remove it.

As the clock ticks down, Mr. Ritchie said his priority now is to raise the money needed to inspect the 134-foot vessel.

“Our focus has shifted to finding a berth to try to raise the money and get the boat to a shipyard to have this survey done,” he said. “So, it’s a little bit of a waiting game and we’re basically running out of time. The insurance company is only going to allow us coverage until January if we don’t get the survey. Now we have to worry about getting the money, or we could lose the boat.”

When the boat left its original port at Mitchell Park Marina in September, with the blessing of the Village board, Mr. Ritchie expected the Fire Fighter to become a community staple at the railroad dock.

However, area fisherman instantly criticized the decision, saying moving the boat to a dock intended for commercial fishing was unfair. Opponents also pointed to the potential damage the boat could cause to the dock and the shellfish beds below, should it sink or begin leaking fuel.

The fishermen’s concerns were echoed in last month’s letter from the county letter and now by the boat’s own insurance provider, Northport-based Hartt Insurance Co. The company is requesting the boat be completely removed from the water in order to test its integrity.

Now with the possible lapse of insurance on the boat, County Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) said it’s even more urgent that the boat be moved.

“It is a concern especially now that they might not have insurance,” Mr. Krupski said Wednesday. “At this point it would be the county’s liability as far as it sinking and the environmental damage and it actually damaging the dock.”

Meanwhile, the county is struggling to map out its next step toward evicting Fire Fighter from the commercial railroad dock, where it remains moored, despite its eviction date of last Friday.

“We are still trying to get word from our legal department about how we’re going to handle it,” Mr. Krupski said.

Fire Fighter was christened in 1938 and was used to fight fires along the New York City waterfront for more than 70 years before being retired in 2010.

The vessel spent two years at the Brooklyn Navy Yard before being transferred to the museum in October 2012. It’s the third-oldest fireboat in the country and the fifth oldest in the world, according to the museum.

11/28/13 5:00pm
11/28/2013 5:00 PM
KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Suffolk County officials have asked the fireboat Fire Fighter museum to leave the railroad dock in Greenport.

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Suffolk County officials have asked the fireboat Fire Fighter museum to leave the railroad dock in Greenport.

When the fireboat Fire Fighter docked in Greenport this past February it was hoped that it could become a permanent fixture in the maritime community — a floating museum where youngsters could learn about the vessel’s rich history battling fires in New York City.

But less than 10 months later, the former FDNY ship appears headed back toward New York City.

The Village of Greenport received a letter from the county attorney’s office late last month stating that the decommissioned fireboat turned nonprofit museum would need to vacate the railroad dock within three weeks, or the county would take further action.

Suffolk County officials say they are now pursuing “all means available” to remove the ship from its mooring at the county-owned railroad dock. The ultimatum comes several months after a group of local fishermen and other village residents complained to village officials that the railroad dock is intended exclusively for commercial fishing purposes and therefore should not host Fire Fighter.

With time running out to remove the boat from the railroad dock, Fire Fighter museum president Charlie Ritchie is scrambling to find another deepwater dock to moor the 134-foot vessel.

“We were looking to private mooring in Sterling Harbor, but it doesn’t look like that is going to work,” he said. “Now we’re looking closer to New York City. We just know we have to get out as soon as possible.”

Mr. Ritchie said the move alone could cost the nonprofit more than $800 in fuel costs and would set back the restoration of the ship.

The Greenport Village Board had voted to move the historic boat to the railroad dock when the contract to dock the vessel at Mitchell Park Marina expired in June. But in its letter last month, the county said it never signed off on the move.

County Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) said the presence of the boat at the railroad dock has created a potential liability for the county.

“If it damages the dock it’s hard to say what would happen,” Mr. Krupski said. “If it sinks, it could damage the oyster beds there. The dock was intended to be used by commercial fishermen and they could be displaced with the fireboat there.”

While the Village of Greenport leases the railroad dock from the county for a token fee of $1 per year, the county has the right to refuse any sublease agreement the village enters into regarding the dock.

Greenport Mayor David Nyce told the public in June that he wanted the village to end the lease agreement for the dock — saying it has caused nothing but “headaches.”

The village began renting the dock in 1982 in hopes of enticing additional fishing boats to tie up there. Instead, Mr. Nyce said, the dock has become a “liability” for the village and hasn’t produced a significant revenue stream.

Village administrator David Abatelli said that although three weeks have passed since the county informed the village of the need to move the boat, there’s not much that can be done to take immediate action.

“All the county said was they were going to take further action,” he said. “I don’t think they’re going to come with a tug boat to move it.”

Suffolk County attorney Dennis Brown said Monday that he can’t comment on the matter, nor could he say what action the county might take to move the fireboat.

Mr. Ritchie said his priority now is to continue to work with the village and the county to come to an amicable solution.

“It’s a shame; we thought we’d have a long relationship with the village,” Mr. Ritchie said. “The board, the village administrator and the mayor have all been good to us. And I can honestly say not one of our visitors has ever said a negative thing about the boat.”

Fire Fighter was christened in 1938 and was used to fight fires along the New York City waterfront for more than 70 years before being retired in 2010.

The vessel spent two years at the Brooklyn Navy Yard before being transferred to the museum in October 2012. It’s the third-oldest fireboat in the country and the fifth oldest in the world, according to the museum.

[email protected]

08/18/13 2:41pm
08/18/2013 2:41 PM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | The fireboat Fire Fighter is docked at Mitchell Park Marina in Greenport.

The fireboat Fire Fighter needs volunteers and sponsors to assist with restoration of the vessel.

Fire Fighter was an active New York City fireboat from 1938 until 2010, and was transferred to the Fireboat Fire Fighter Museum in 2012. Fire Fighter is now located in Mitchell Park Marina in Greenport and has been designated a National Landmark. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the ship’s christening and launch.

Fundraisers, painters, welders, tour guides, engineers and captains are invited to share their expertise and time — as are those who just want to help out. Sponsors are also needed to help with the museum’s “wish list.”

Contact museum president Charlie Ritchie at (845) 612-1950 or stop by the fireboat on weekends for more information or to volunteer.

07/09/13 10:00am
07/09/2013 10:00 AM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | Fire Fighter remains docked at Mitchell Park Marina.

Plans to move former New York City fireboat Fire Fighter from Mitchell Park Marina to the Suffolk County owned railroad dock have come to a standstill.

Attorneys from the village and the county are trying to determine whether moving the floating museum is permitted under the lease agreement, which reserves the dock for commercial fisherman, according to Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue).

“Fire Fighter is enormous,” Mr. Krupski said. “We would not want to displace commercial fishing boats.”

The review of the lease comes weeks after Greenport Village Board members approved the mooring of the historic boat at the railroad dock by a 3-2 vote with Trustees David Murray and Mary Bess Phillips in opposition.

SEE MORE PHOTOS OF FIRE FIGHTER

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 and it has the right to refuse any sublease agreement the village enters into regarding the railroad dock, the mayor said.

The contract between the village and the Fireboat Fire Fighter Museum to dock the vessel at Mitchell Park Marina expired in June. 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 to free up the taxpayer-funded marina for its intended use as a public facility for recreational boaters.

Housing Fire Fighter at the railroad dock has drawn outrage from fishermen, who said the move conflicts with the village’s law to support and maintain a working waterfront. Many have called the overall condition of the boat into questioning.

Though the boat had not been hauled out, it was inspected last fall, Mayor Nyce said.

[email protected]

06/25/13 2:00pm
06/25/2013 2:00 PM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Fire Fighter is moving to the railroad dock.

Despite objections from residents and two board members, the decommissioned New York City fireboat Fire Fighter is moving from Mitchell Park Marina to the railroad dock.

During its regular meeting Monday, Greenport Village Board members approved the mooring of the historic boat at the Suffolk County owned dock, which Village law reserves for commercial fisherman.

The motion passed by a 3-2 margin with Trustees David Murray and Mary Bess Phillips in opposition.

The contract between the village and the Fireboat Fire Fighter Museum to dock the vessel at Mitchell Park Marina expired earlier this month. 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 134-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 mayor said.

Greenport resident John Saladino disagreed with the mayor’s statements on the lease.

“No where in the lease agreement with the County is it required for the village to get County approval for a vessel to dock at the railroad dock,” he said in a statement after the meeting.” The first page of the lease clearly disputes Mr. Nyce’s contention the dock is to be used exclusively for commercial fishing boats.”

Housing Fire Fighter at the railroad dock has drawn outrage from fisherman who said the move conflicts with the Village’s law to support and maintain a working waterfront. Many have called the overall condition of the boat into questioning.

“I want to state up front that I am in support of any village project that offers residents something new and unique that attracts visitors from outside the village,” said Stephen Clarke, owner and operator of the Greenport Yacht & Shipbuilding Company. “I want to draw the board’s attention to things that might have been overlooked. It is not an inspected boat. The most routine maintenance has not been done on this boat in more than 10 years.”

After a previous meeting, Mayor Nyce said though the boat had not been hauled out, it was inspected last fall.

Although the now-expired contract had protected the village previously, the resolution passed on the condition that a $1 million insurance policy is taken out by its owner to protect the village from liability.

Board permits alcohol consumption on public property 

Board members Monday approved a permit allowing The Long Island Power Squadron to serve alcohol on public property at Mitchell Park Marina for an event running from July 25 through July 28 at Mitchell Park Marina.

Board members are currently reworking the regulation to formally allow the consumption of alcohol on public property during all special events, according to Mr. Nyce. If passed the amendment to the Mass Public Assembly Permit would authorize private organizations to serve alcohol at Mitchell Park.

The intent is to allow guests of the marina to use the park as a reception area, the mayor said.  The amendment would still prohibit the sale of alcohol and would restrict the events to an enclosed area, he said.

All of the events are subject to the approval of the Village Board regardless of its passage.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Sterling Street parking ban passes.

Sterling Street parking ban passes

Motorists looking to park on the waterfront side of Sterling Street will have to find an alternative spot.

Residents remained split on the issue for months, but board members ultimately decided the additional parking was a source of safety concerns and adopted the law prohibiting parking on a portion of the eastern side of Sterling Street.

The ban stretches about 50 feet and eliminates two to three parking spaces.

Mayor to Mexico

Mayor Nyce is headed to Mexico.

Board members approved a resolution permitting Mayor Nyce to attend the Hagedorn Foundation and Witness for Peace program in Mexico City, Mexico from July 13 through July 21.

The Port Washington-based Hagedorn Foundation supports social equality and champions immigration reform; while Witness for Peace works towards peace, justice and sustainable economies in the Americas by changing U.S. policies, according to its website.

Mr. Nyce was said he was invited to represent Greenport because of the village’s diverse Latino population.

“The idea is to tie the history of immigration here to what’s currently going on in regards to [nationwide immigration],” he said.

The Witness for Peace program will compensate the majority of the travel costs, Mr. Nyce said.

The village will provide $200 for the mayor’s transportation to and from John F. Kennedy International Airport in Brooklyn.

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