Under Cover

Packing up Peking

The South Street Seaport Museum’s flagship vessel, the Peking, may soon travel across the Atlantic Ocean to a permanent home in its native Germany. Sources tell UnderCover the ship’s maintenance is too expensive for the financially struggling museum and a deal is pending to sell Peking to the German government.

“The maintenance is what’s killing them,” a source with connections to the museum told UnderCover. “They’d rather see [the Peking] go somewhere to be taken care of, rather than sink at the dock.”

Five years ago, then-president Peter Neal tried to sell the ship, but Germany’s offer of around $5 million wasn’t enough, and the talks fell through, the source said. After Neal left a few years ago, museum officials said a sale was no longer under consideration.

The museum did not return calls.

For the next week, Seaport visitors can get a glimpse of what Pier 16 would look like without the tall historic ship, as Peking is in a dry dock on Staten Island undergoing a thorough inspection. After the structural analysis, the museum “will evaluate next steps,” according to a press release.

Ship enthusiasts gathered to see the Peking off early Monday morning, an experience Lee Gruzen, co-chairperson of Seaport Speaks, will remember for a long time.

“When that boat came out from the berth, she got larger and larger and more and more magnificent,” Gruzen said.

She and other museum supporters followed Peking to Staten Island on the schooner Pioneer, watching the ship pass the Statue of Liberty and Governors Island, juxtaposed with the more modern vessels that frequent the river.

Meanwhile, the museum is placing renewed emphasis on another tall historic ship, Wavertree, which will undergo a city-sponsored renovation later this year. Sounds like Peking won’t be so lucky.

Merrill to stay

Merrill Lynch is inching closer to staying in Downtown Manhattan at the World Financial Center.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver met with Merrill C.E.O. John Thain Monday and “was told that Merrill Lynch is currently discussing a renewal of their lease in the World Financial Center,” Silver spokesperson Jim Quent told UnderCover. Silver has met with Merrill many times over the past several months, but this was the first time the company confirmed renewal discussions, Quent said.

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that Merrill is close to extending its lease with Brookfield Properties Corp. by five years to 2018. Merrill, which was planning to go to Midtown until C.E.O. Stan O’Neal was sacked, does not appear interested in the planned World Trade Center towers. Brookfield reportedly refused Merrill’s request for a one-year extension.

Millstein grinds slowly

The Community Board 1 Battery Park City Committee was not happy to hear that Millstein Properties won’t start construction on Site 23/24 for another few months. Millstein is building a residential tower with a community center on the site adjacent to the Battery Park City ballfields.

The developer has finished doing test borings on the site and “construction will start probably in the spring,” said Leticia Remauro of the Battery Park City Authority.

“Almost a year late?” C.B. 1 member Anthony Notaro asked.

“More than that,” another committee member replied.

Remauro promised the committee that the delay would not affect the ballfields. The authority is flipping the fields to get the home plates further from the expected construction and will finish in the next couple weeks, in plenty of time for baseball season.

Tom Goodkind, a board member, raised the contested question of artificial turf versus grass for the new fields, but that decision is several months off.