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Most of the photographers tend to congregate on the bow of our tour vessel and that’s where I came to appreciate John’s knowledge and expertise of the Kill Van Kull – what we fondly call “tugboat alley”.
John’s love for the working harbor immediately evident, little did I know at the time that he’d been a ship spotting photographer for more than 30 years. Now the New York Times has written a fantastic feature story on Skelson. Only thing missing in my humble opinion, are some of his “ship portraits”… I’ve remedied that here.
Many of the freighters and tankers arriving in New York Harbor hang a left just after the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, and head through the Kill Van Kull waterway to the busy New Jersey ports.
And off their port bow, there is often a familiar figure patrolling the kill’s shoreline: a bearded man snapping photographs of the passing container ships, tugboats and other commercial craft.
“Some crew members definitely recognize me and give a wave or blow their horn,” said the photographer, John Skelson, 64, who has been covering the waterfront with his Nikon from this northern shoreline of Staten Island since 1970.
“I do ship portraits; that’s always been my niche,” said Mr. Skelson, who teaches photography at the Art Lab at the nearby Snug Harbor Cultural Center. “Most New Yorkers’ idea of New York Harbor is cruise ships and the Staten Island Ferry. They have no idea what comes in and out of the harbor commercially, and most of it comes right through here.”
Mr. Skelson has lived his entire life in the area, currently residing a couple of blocks from the kill, here in the Livingston section, about two miles west of the Staten Island Ferry terminal.
His waterfront is one not of bike lanes, kayak clubs and reclaimed parkland, but rather of the old-fashioned industrial kind that has largely vanished in New York, except for this stretch that is home to tugboat companies and shipyards. Here, down a dead-end next to a lone gas station, Mr. Skelson enjoys a front-row seat to a daily parade of ships.
Gritty oil tankers come drifting by as they head to storage plants in Bayonne, N.J. Huge oceangoing container ships head toward Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal, and plenty of muscular tugs bustle about, escorting these vessels.
The ships slip by so close that one gets a visceral feel of their enormousness, and a visual sense of the vast amount of cargo that comes in to New York each day.
“This is really the only place you can get close to these ships,” Mr. Skelson said at the spot on Tuesday. “Sometimes it’s too close, and I don’t have a lens wide enough to get the whole vessel in.” “As long as there’s something passing through, I’m happy,” he said. Read more here…
by Mai Armstrong for the Working Harbor Committee
A quick reblog this holiday Sunday of an unexpected sight captured by WHC official photographer Mitch Waxman, on one of WHC’s Hidden Harbor Tours this summer.
Reblogged from The Newtown Pentacle: Corporeal Presences
The Halve Maen floats in for maritime sunday.
Just a couple of weeks ago, the replica ship Halve Maen, or Half Moon, was spotted while it was plying the harbor just off the coast of Breuckelen. Back during the days of the Dutch decadence, this sort of thing would have been a fairly common sight, just like public floggings.
Another replica of the Halve Maen (officially Anglicized as Half Moon) was constructed in Albany, New York in 1989 by the New Netherland Museum. The museum contracted with Nicholas S. Benton to design and build the replica. Mr. Benton, a master ship-rigger and shipwright, was president of the Rigging Gang of Middletown, Rhode Island, which specialized in colonial ship restoration and design. To prepare for building the Half Moon, a $1 million project, he visited maritime museums in the Netherlands and the United States. After his death while assisting with the rigging of another vessel, the construction of the Half Moon was completed by the New Netherland Museum. The year 2009 marks the 400th anniversary of the Halve Maen’s voyage. For the anniversary, the crown prince of the Netherlands and his wife were on board, as well as students from a Dutch school. This anniversary was marked in September 2009 with festivals, music, sailing ships parading around New York Harbor.
“follow” Mitch Waxman on Twitter- @newtownpentacle
by Mai Armstrong for the Working Harbor Committee
On September 28th, we’ll be heading up Newtown Creek, that fascinating waterway that separates Brooklyn and Queens. Motorists drive over it without much notice – on the Brooklyn Queen Expressway, the Long Island Expressway and across more bridges than I can count on one hand.
But, what do you really know about the place?
Join WHC on the Newtown Creek Hidden Harbor Tour® and find out about the creek’s storied past, challenging present and bright future.
The Newtown Pentacle: The Maritime History of Newtown Creek is one largely forgotten in these decadent times, but even now an odd tugboat and barge might be spied making their way down the waterway on any given day.
Property owners were considered to have been blessed by some of the finest industrial bulkheads in the world a mere century ago, yet many of the businesses based along the Creek today ignore this invaluable resource, allowing their waterfront property to decay and decline.
Nevertheless, a staggering amount of maritime traffic is still observed here, and towing companies such as Reinauer, K-Sea (now part of Kirby), DonJon, and Poling and Cutler are regular visitors.
Vast operations will be witnessed by those onboard, many of which are involved in the scrap metal and recyclables trade. Responsible for an enormous amount of cross harbor shipping, companies such as SimsMetal are heavily reliant on the maritime trades for their economic success.
Not all that long ago, Newtown Creek carried a greater tonnage of cargo than the entire Mississippi River.
A tributary of the estuarine East River, Newtown Creek extends some 3.8 miles from its junction with the more familiar waterway, and provides demarcation for the currently undefended border of much of Brooklyn and Queens. Named to the Federal Superfund list, the Creek suffers from a history of environmental degradation and municipal neglect.
An era of great change is upon the Newtown Creek, and this trip will be one of your last chances to see it in its current form.
Come explore Newtown Creek by boat on Saturday, September 28 with Working Harbor Executive Director Captain John Doswell and Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman as your guides.
Boarding begins at 2:30 p.m., and departs at 3:00 p.m. sharp. The 2.5 hour, fully narrated, round-trip excursion departs from and returns to the New York Skyports Marina found at East 23rd Street & the FDR Drive in Manhattan. There will be a cash bar onboard.
by Mai Armstrong via Mitch Waxman for the
Working Harbor Committee
Want to see something cool?
A Hidden Harbor® Newark Bay Tour is in the offing, which will take place onboard the luxury tour boat Zephyr.
Produced by the Working Harbor Committee of New York, a 501c3 non-profit corporation whose mission is to strengthen awareness of the working harbor’s history and vitality today, and its opportunities for the future.
The tour will be departing from South Street Seaport’s Pier 16 in Lower Manhattan, on Tuesday the 10th of September, between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m.
Our vessel features two fully enclosed and climate controlled decks with all amenities. There is an open-air roof deck which offers panoramic views of the incredible harbor of New York and New Jersey. Snacks and beverages, including wine and beer, will be available for onboard purchase on the spacious and comfortable ship.
Hidden Harbor® Tours are presented by Working Harbor Committee in partnership with the New York Water Taxi/Circle Line Downtown.
Visiting Brooklyn’s Erie Basin, then “Tugboat Alley” (aka the Kill Van Kull), our ultimate destination will be the Port Elizabeth and Port Newark container terminals. The Statue of Liberty will be visited on the way home, at sunset.
Tugboats, oil barges, tankers, container ships, car carriers, ocean liners and ferries ply the busy waters of New York Harbor daily, but most of their activity is hidden from land. On this cruise tour-goers will get an insider’s view of New York’s working harbor – the largest port on the East Coast and the third busiest in the nation.
Working Harbor Committee offers boat tours from May to October. Tours are narrated by people who know the harbor intimately – tugboat captains, maritime historians and other experts. WHC’s schedule includes visits to places like the tugboat berths in Erie Basin and Kill Van Kull, container, breakbulk, oil and car ports in Brooklyn and New Jersey, Newtown Creek and many other locations.
The group has been in operation for ten years, and proceeds derived from the tour help to support educational programs for at risk youths, as well as offering free harbor programming for senior citizens.
Onboard our comfortable NY Water Taxi vessel Zephyr, you will be delighted by a never-ending parade of tugboats, cargo vessels, and see the immense cargo handling equipment which lines the shorelines. Hear the realities of keeping a 24/7 operation like this- which employs tens of thousands of New Yorkers- running from maritime experts and harbor insiders.
The world of working maritime vessels and facilities is vitally important to the area’s economic well-being.
Want to know where your Toyota came in? How the ingredients for your chocolate bar got here? How your trash is removed?
Welcome to the Working Harbor.
This tour passes by the Red Hook Container Terminal and visits Erie Basin, home of Hughes Brothers Barges and Reinauer Tugs before crossing the harbor toward Staten Island. It then enters Kill Van Kull, the area’s busiest waterway dividing Staten Island and Bayonne, passing tug yards, oil docks and marine repair facilities.It then passes under the Bayonne Bridge and visits the giant container ports of Newark Bay: Port Newark and the Elizabeth-Port Authority Marine Terminal, where the world’s largest container ships tie up.
On the way back, we pass by Military Ocean Terminal, the 9/11 Teardrop Memorial, the Robbins Reef Lighthouse and more.
The Statue of Liberty, at sunset, is our last stop before returning to Pier 16.
The September 10th Newark Bay tour will be led by Captain John Doswell, executive director of Working Harbor Committee.
Capt. Doswell was a writer, designer, producer and software developer for many years before turning his attention to NYC’s waterfront. He serves on the board of several waterfront organizations and founded Friends of Hudson River Park. In addition, he is a waterfront consultant and event producer. Capt. Doswell runs the annual tug race on the Hudson River, and has been involved with everything from Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance’s “City of Water Day” to “Op Sail”.
Special guest narrator Ed Kelly, executive director of the Maritime Association of the Port of New York and New Jersey, will draw on his long maritime experience to describe how the port works.
“The maritime industry delivers the American way of life. It is essential to the nation’s security and economic well-being,” Ed Kelly has said. But because we have gotten so good at what we do people don’t even know we do it any more. It is hidden away. That’s why tours like this are so important.”
Get onboard with the Working Harbor Committee, and order tickets to our September 10th Newark Bay tour with Capt. John Doswell and Ed Kelly, click here for the NY Water Taxi ticketing page.
Explore New York Harbor in the Wake of Hurricane Sandy aboard the luxury tour boat Zephyr, departing from South Street Seaport
Pier 16 in Lower Manhattan.
This tour begins in the East River, sails past Governors Island, then traverses Kill Van Kull to Newark Bay, exploring container terminals, oil docks, tug yards, & rail yards.
Find out how the working harbor fared & helped post-surge. Learn about simple common sense defenses such as zoning changes, tunnel protections, waterproofing and building smarter. Plus, see how oyster beds, dunes, wet lands may help. And learn how close we came to a goods delivery crisis.
Beyond Sandy is a special series of Hidden Harbor Tours® that will focus on the array of global warming and sea-level rise protection solutions for our waterfronts as well as a focus on maritime businesses and citizens impacted by the storm.
The tours are two hours in length and will leave from Pier 16 at the South Street Seaport District. Guest speakers will be onboard from government agencies, the maritime industry, think tanks and universities, as well as representatives from non-profit organizations that were involved in helping people from their communities.
Special Guest Speakers:
Michael Marrella AICP, is the Director of Waterfront and Open Space Planning for the New York City Department of City Planning. Michael is responsible for directing waterfront policy for the agency. He advises the Chair and members of the City Planning Commission on the planning and land use issues affecting waterfront and open space areas and climate adaptation planning, manages the staff of the Waterfront and Open Space Division, and acts as the primary liaison to a wide range of stakeholders including elected officials, community organizations, and private sector entities on matters of land use, zoning and economic development related to waterfront and open space.
Daniel Zarrilli is the Director of Resiliency for the City of New York. Mayor Bloomberg appointed Dan to this newly created position in June 2013 to lead the implementation of the City’s PlaNYC resiliency report: “A Stronger, More Resilient New York.” Until June 2013, he served on the Mayor’s Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency, leading the City’s efforts to develop coastal protection measures for the five boroughs. In a previous role, he was the Senior Vice President for Asset Management at NYCEDC, responsible for maritime assets and operations, including the City’s two cruise terminals and numerous other transportation and freight assets.
Monica Byrne, ReStore Red Hook, along with her partner Leisah Swenson, are owners of Home/Made, a restaurant in Red Hook, and Roquette catering, a boutique event design company. They are also co-founders of ReStore Red Hook, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rebuilding the small businesses devastated by Sandy in the Red Hook community. Byrne will be the first to tell you that owning a restaurant in Red Hook isn’t easy. To overcome the small local population and the practically nonexistent public transit, Byrne employs what she calls “the great underestimation factor.” “If we can get them here one time,” she says, “they’ll keep coming back.”
For more information visit workingharbor.org See you onboard!
News Release: Working Harbor Committee