The tanker now sits at the Red Hook Container Port, but because of Port Authority security regulations, there is no public access. And that is the problem. All of the ship's programs, hosted by Portside New York, have been put on hold. Funds are dwindling, so now, the Whalen needs a new home. And fast.
The Mary Whalen is a vintage oil tanker built in 1938, and it has been lovingly refurbished. For a time, it was open for tours and events. But the need to secure the port means there are Homeland Security regulations and Port Authority rules that prevent Portside New York from using the ship. Rich Naruszewicz used to work on the ship.
"It has a lot of history, a lot of history in New York Harbor," he said. "It's done everything, done everything in war and peace, refueled all kinds of ships, all kinds of tankers."
Portside New York has been working for the past several years to secure a permanent port, but the process is slow and money is running out. The Mary Whalen must be moved by April 30. Organizers are confident that once a location is found, money will not be an issue.
"We will earn money rapidly once we have a place, and be able to raise money rapidly," Portside New York's Carolina Salguero said. "But without those things, we're penned up in a place where we can't do."
One of the most successful events held on the Mary Whalen was four sold-out performances of a Puccini opera back in 2007. Those involved say it was really something special.
"There's something absolutely magical about putting water together with music," opera stage director Beth Greenberg said. "Things happen. Great things happen. Singers loved it. Singers loved performing on it. The audience loved it. And on a summer's evening in New York City, what a great cultural entertainment."
One location under consideration is the pier at Brooklyn Bridge park. The Mary Whalen is small enough to fit, and with running and bike trails and a playground, there are plenty of daily visitors who would frequent the floating museum.
For more information on Portside New York, visit PortsideNewYork.org.
To sign the petition to save the Mary Whalen, visit http://chn.ge/PortSideSOS
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