Retired Oil Tanker Fuels Interest Along Brooklyn Waterfront

A Brooklyn-based organization is using a historic ship to raise awareness about the city's equally historic waterfront. NY1's Roger Clark filed the following report.

If the Mary Whalen could talk, she would have many a story from 56 years on the high seas.

"There's a magic about this ship. I can't really articulate what that magic is, but you feel it when you get on board," said PortSide New York Event Producer John Weaver.

The Mary Whalen was recently deemed eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The 172-foot oil tanker was retired in 1994 and has spent recent years as the centerpiece of PortSide New York, a not-for-profit that aims to show the city better ways to use so-called "blue space," or waterfront.

"We directly deliver programs on and off the tanker Mary Whalen, and they are diverse, they range from arts, education, historic ship tours, using the ship as a mobile cultural platform," said PortSide New York Director Carolina Salguero.

PortSide says it gets about 500 visitors a day when the ship is open for tours. But they are hoping to dramatically increase that number with the establishment of a permanent home at the nearby Atlantic Basin.

The Mary Whalen is currently docked at the Red Hook Container Port. Tight security measures there prevent PortSide from holding too many public programs. Salguero, who acts as shipkeeper and lives on the ship, says she has her fingers crossed.

"Eager for resolution of a permanent home, eager for people to invite us to places where we can actually deliver the goods," she said.

Right now, PortSide is trying to raise funds in order to participate in a city summer youth employment program. They also say they would like to hire five people to help renovate the captain's cabin: All of which would cost around $16,000.

"The city pays the kids but it would be PortSide's responsibility to cover our costs, the adult supervision, the materials for the restoration," Salguero said.

For more information on how to help out or to find out more about the ship itself, visit

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