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3 vessels to call Pier 25 home

BY Aline Reynolds

Come summer, Pier 25 in Hudson River Park will once again be a hotspot for maritime lovers from around the city.

Now that reconstruction of the pier is complete, it is poised to welcome three vessels – Clipper City, Lilac, and the tugboat Pegasus – that will offer a range of neighborhood programs, dockside activities and sailing trips.

In addition to housing the stationed ships, Pier 25 will also have space for short-term visits by other vessels.

“Having been involved in the park for a long time… it’s pretty amazing to imagine the pier with these ships alongside of it,” said Noreen Doyle, acting president of the Hudson River Park Trust, which owns the pier and decides on the programming. “There was a lot of effort to outfit the pier in a way we hope will be attractive to historic vessels now and in the future.”

The vessels project dates back to a 1995 plan created by H.R.P.T., which embodied a vision to refurbish the park’s piers and educate the public about the area’s maritime history.

In November 2010, Pier 25 was the first of three docks to be completed. It will be followed by Pier 97 and Pier 54, according to Doyle.

“We think that, once the new piers are fully operational, people are going to get to love them,” said Bob Townley, executive director of Manhattan Youth, which organizes a range of after-school programs for neighborhood children and runs the mini-golf and snack bar at the pier.

Townley plans to work with the managers of Clipper City and the other Pier 25 vessels to make them sustainable and publicly accessible.

“We’re like a family,” he said. “We’re going to work together to bring community people to the pier.”

Clipper City, a steel replica of a 19th-century wooden schooner of the same name, plans to move to Pier 25 once contractual issues have been nailed down and the vessel’s crew irons out engineering issues related to docking at the pier.

The schooner is the largest active sailboat in New York, and one of the largest operating passenger sailboats in America, according to its owner, Tom Berton.

While docked in the harbor, Manhattan By Sail, which operates Clipper City, plans to coordinate kids’ camp activities on the vessel with Manhattan Youth, as well as host community fundraiser and corporate sailing events.

The organization also intends to continue sailing trips for an elderly group from The Hallmark — a senior center in Battery Park City ­- as well for as youths from the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy’s teen marine program.

“This year’s going to be a learning process… as the year goes on, we’ll try to do more and more,” said Berton. “It’s been a great working relationship so far [with H.R.P.T], so we’re excited.”

Berton said he is looking forward to getting Downtown residents — especially youngsters — acquainted with the schooner, which will make three to five trips daily on the Hudson River once it is in its Pier 25 berth.

“It’ll be very gratifying to share sailing with the community,” he said. “The more kids I can take sailing, the more fun it is for me.”

Clipper City has recently spent its winters in Red Hook, Brooklyn, where it is now docked. It formerly operated from Pier 17 in the South Street Seaport.

The Lilac Preservation Project, which runs the 1933 lighthouse tender, Lilac, plans to co-host music concerts, circus performances and other festivities at the pier.

The Lilac will arrive at the pier by mid-May, in time for a wedding scheduled on the ship on May 21. It has been docked on the north side of Pier 40, in Greenwich Village, since late 2003.

“We’re really looking forward to the opportunity to become part of the Tribeca community,” said the vessel’s museum director, Mary Habstritt. “We’ll be a lot more visible and easier to find at Pier 25,” she said. “It’ll really be an improvement.”

The ship, currently inactive, is in need of restoration estimated at around $5 million, to become mobile again – a daunting endeavor for the Lilac Preservation Project.

In the meantime, however, the ship will have rotating photography exhibits at Pier 25 starting on Memorial Day weekend. The first show will feature Paul Margolis’ photos of the Hudson River’s last commercial fishermen, and of Ellis Island’s abandoned historic buildings. And the July exhibit will showcase Shelley Seccombe’s photographs of vessels along the Manhattan waterfront.

The Tug Pegasus, a 1907 harbor tugboat, will move to Pier 25 in the summer. Its owner, the Tug Pegasus Preservation Project, plans to organize workshops, guided tours of the ship and a speakers’ series focused on maritime culture. While most of the programming will be free, some will have nominal entrance fees, depending on staffing needs, according to Pamela Hepburn, executive director of the group. In collaboration with the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, the organization also hopes to schedule visits to the vessel for youths from neighborhood schools and low-income community organizations such as United Neighborhood Houses.

The vessel will begin making harbor trips next fall and Hepburn deemed the move to Pier 25 a turning point for the small organization. “It’ll be a great opportunity to expand our programs,” she said. “We want to have as many open hours as possible to serve the public.”

In recent years, the T.P.P.P., which currently works from Red Hook, has partnered with the Chinese-American Planning Council and the Police Athletic League NYC to provide activities for underprivileged teenagers.

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