Three historic ships find a home at a Tribeca pier


By Aline Reynolds

Come summer, Pier 25 in Hudson River Park will once again be a hot spot for maritime lovers.

Now that reconstruction of the Tribeca pier at N. Moore St. is complete, it’s 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 berthing 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 runs the pier and its 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.”

Providing space in Hudson River Park for historic ships was a component of the park’s 1995 plan.

The renovation of Pier 25 was completed in November 2010. Other park piers slated for renovation include Pier 97, at W. 57th St., and Pier 54, at W. 13th St., according to Doyle.

Bob Townley, director of Manhattan Youth, which runs after-school programs, the mini-golf and snack bar at Pier 25, said he plans to work with Clipper City and the other boats to make them sustainable and publicly accessible.

“We’re like a family,” Townley 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, is the largest active sailboat in New York, and one of the largest operating passenger sailboats in America, according to its owner, Tom Berton.

Manhattan By Sail, which operates Clipper City, plans to coordinate childrens’ camp activities on the boat with Manhattan Youth, as well as host community fundraisers and corporate sailing events.

The organization also intends to continue sailing trips for residents of The Hallmark, a senior residence in Battery Park City.

Once docked at Pier 25, the schooner will make three to five trips daily on the Hudson River.

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

Clipper City is currently docked in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and formerly operated out of the South Street Seaport’s Pier 17.

The Lilac Preservation Project, which runs the 1933 lighthouse tender Lilac, plans to co-host music concerts, circus performances and other festivities at Pier 25. The Lilac will arrive at the Tribeca pier by mid-May, in time for a scheduled May 21 onboard wedding. The craft has been docked on Pier 40’s north side, at West Houston St., since 2003.

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

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

The ship will have rotating photography exhibits at Pier 25 starting Memorial Day weekend. The first will feature Paul Margolis’s photos of the Hudson River’s last commercial fishermen and of Ellis Island’s abandoned historic buildings.

The 1907 harbor tugboat Pegasus 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 executive director Pamela Hepburn. The organization also hopes to schedule visits to the tug for neighborhood youths.

Now docked in Red Hook, Pegasus will begin making harbor trips next fall. 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.”