Booted from Hoboken, historic ferry finds new home in Red Hook

Booted from Hoboken, historic ferry finds new home in Red Hook
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Hoboken’s loss is Brooklyn’s gain.

A beloved 107-year-old ferryboat booted out of its Hoboken home on the Hudson River last week has found refuge in Red Hook.

The history-rich SS Yankee, after being made homeless last week, on July 2 was tugged over to its new home at the Gowanus Bay Terminal.

“We had nowhere to go,” said owner Victoria MacKenzie-Childs. “This was a way for Yankee to exist.”

MacKenzie-Childs and her husband, Richard, are both artists and have owned the boat for the past 12 years. Said to be the oldest known ferryboat in the country, the U.S. Navy commissioned it during World War I and II to be a patrol boat. During the 1920s, it shuttled thousands of newly-arrived immigrants from Ellis Island to New York City.

After spending eight years docked at a private pier in Hoboken, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the steel-hulled passenger vessel was forced to relocate to a pier owned by the New Jersey city. In March, the city of Hoboken hit the ship with an eviction notice, said MacKenzie-Childs.

Desperate, the couple tried to negotiate with the mayor’s office to allow the boat to stay in Hoboken. But, in late June, they were told that the old ship had to leave for reasons that included electrical violations and other complaints.

With just days to find a new port big enough to hold the 150-foot-long vessel with three-decks, the boat owners went to the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance. The Alliance was able to link up the owners with concrete titan John Quadrozzi Jr. of the Gowanus Bay Terminal. He allowed the crew to dock the boat on the Henry Street pier.

Even before an agreement was finalized, the vessel was tugged over to Red Hook last week because it was in such a dire situation, said MacKenzie-Childs.

After meeting Quadrozzi and viewing the neighborhood’s industrial waterfront, MacKenzie-Childs said that having Quadrozzi as a boat landlord was a perfect match.

Base change: Victoria MacKenzie-Childs, owner of the historic SS Yankee ferryboat, could not be happier that the beloved vessel has found a potentially permanent home in Red Hook.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

“After we got here, we knew it was meant to be,” she said. “I want Red Hook to be as grateful to Yankee as Yankee is to Red Hook.”

Yankee will likely become a permanent fixture at the Gowanus Bay Terminal, said both Quadrozzi and MacKenzie-Childs.

The ferryboat has been revamped over the years and has even been used as a “boatel” for people to rent out rooms for overnight stays.

MacKenzie-Childs said that she hopes to create a public museum in the boat. She wants to have exhibits showing the history of the waterfront and the Yankee. The ship will offer free tours and MacKenzie-Childs said she plans to rent out the upper deck as a community and professional meeting space.

“Yankee could be a business think tank,” she said, “a place where people can leave the corporate board room.”

Quadrozzi said he expects to have the boat permanently docked at the Columbia Street pier so that the public can easily board it from the street.

“It’s going to be a public attraction vessel,” said Quadrozzi, adding that his vision for the waterfront matched that of MacKenzie-Childs.

Quadrozzi is also in talks with PortSide NewYork, the owner of the Mary A. Whalen, a Depression-era oil tanker, to have that boat moved permanently to the Columbia Street pier.

“My hope is that the public can become educated by having these vessels along Columbia Street,” he said.

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at nmusumeci@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at twitter.com/souleddout.

Photo by Elizabeth Graham