Historic ship waits in Brooklyn for go-ahead to berth at Pier 40

The S.S. Lilac, an 800-ton steamer salvaged by a group of marine enthusiasts who had it towed up from Norfolk, Va., is in the Erie Basin in Brooklyn and waiting for a permanent home on Pier 40.

“We’re waiting for engineers to certify plans for the fendering piles we have to install on the north side of Pier 40,” said Gerry Weinstein, a member of the Tug Pegasus Foundation, which owns the 173-ft. steamship, built in 1907 for the U.S. Lighthouse Service.

Weinstein, however, said the Hudson River Park Trust’s policy on berthing historic ships is so vague that engineers are reluctant to sign off on plans because they are not sure what the Trust wants.

“Property owners in the Erie Basin have been very accommodating and are letting us dock wherever there is room,” Weinstein said. “We may have to berth the ship in Brooklyn permanently.”

In March, Chris Martin, spokesperson for the Trust, the agency building Hudson River Park between Chambers and 59th Sts., said the Trust had not made a final decision on providing space for the Lilac. Pier 40 was also planned as the permanent home of the Clearwater, the 1960s reproduction of the 19th-century sloops that moved freight up and down the Hudson River. But the Clearwater, which runs environmental and education programs, is also awaiting clearance for fendering on Pier 40

The Lilac, which served as a training vessel for the Seafarers’ International Union for several years, is owned by a group that includes Norman Brouwer, historian at the South St. Seaport Museum; Huntley Gill, a partner in the decommissioned fireboat John R. Harvey, docked at Pier 63 Maritime in Chelsea; Pamela Hepburn, skipper of the historic tug Pegasus, docked on Pier 62; and Weinstein.