Berth of a nation! Red Hook dock owner wants to house historic S.S. United States

Berth of a nation! Red Hook dock owner wants to house historic S.S. United States

He is waiting for his ship to come in!

The owners of historic luxury passenger liner the S.S. United States — which is currently wasting away in a Philadelphia berth — are trying to save the ship from the scrap heap, and a Red Hook businessman wants to dock it at his waterfront empire and turn it into a floating office and entertainment complex.

“I can’t say enough how exciting it would be to be a part of getting this ship sited in this area of Red Hook,” said concrete magnate John Quadrozzi Jr., who owns the Gowanus Bay Terminal at the end of Columbia Street.

The 63-year-old behemoth known as “America’s Flagship” — once the fastest ocean liner in the world — ferried icons including John F. Kennedy, Walt Disney, John Wayne, and Marilyn Monroe across the Atlantic during its heyday.

But the rise of air travel eventually put it out of commission, and for the past 19 years it has languished, racking up a maintenance bill of $60,000 per month that its skippers say they can’t afford to foot for much longer — so they sent out an S.O.S. to New Yorkers interested in housing it and fixing it up, and Quadrozzi answered the call.

His pitch is to gussy up the gutted vessel’s 12 decks — which span 13 football fields worth of space — and fill them with offices for start-ups, a gym and swimming pool, eateries, a theater, a maritime school, and a maritime museum. The ship would be self-sustaining, he claims, converting waste to energy and harnessing solar and wind power.

The plan may sound Titanic — in fact, the boat itself is larger — but Quadrozzi says both he and the S.S. United States Conservancy, which has owned the craft since 1999, believe it holds water.

“The conservancy feels not only would it physically be a good space to support the economics of the ship, it would be viable,” he said.

The extreme makeover would cost somewhere between $50 and $200 million, according to the conservancy, plus a $2 million ticket to tow the vessel from Philly to Red Hook.

Quadrozzi won’t foot the bill himself, but he will host the ship at his Red Hook facility rent-free, and both he and the conservancy say they are in the midst of talks with donors, developers, investors, and government agencies to fund the endeavor.

The conservancy says it is still deciding between the Red Hook plan and an undisclosed Manhattan location — or the scrap yard, if neither is viable — and hopes to make a decision by early November.

If the conservancy crew selects his plan, Quadrozzi says he will start a steering committee made up of members of the community to discuss the impact of the ship on the neighborhood.

Red Hook is home to several repurposed boats — Gowanus Bay Terminal already hosts the 107-year-old S.S. Yankee that owners are hoping to turn into a museum and gallery, oil tanker-turned-floating-education-space the Mary A. Whalen is docked in Atlantic Basin, and the Waterfront Museum at the end of Conover Street is housed on a 100-year-old barge — and residents say the S.S. United States would be a welcome addition to the neighborhood flotilla.

“It would have an incredible impact, it would create a huge space of commercial and industrial use in Red Hook which is really in line with what the neighborhood uses are now,” said Victoria Hagman, a member of Community Board 6 who has lived in the area for 13 years. “It will be really exciting to have a historic ship located right here.”

Ship shape: The S.S. United States once hosted celebrities like John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe, but is not looking so grand these days.
SS United States Conservancy