The Waterfront Museum presents the final session of The Tideshift Project, featuring stories of waterfront workers from the pre-containerization era and people working in today’s final mile shipping industry. Tideshift is a three-part series of oral history collecting events presented live, virtually, and in person aboard the 1914 Lehigh Valley Railroad No. 79 wooden lighterage barge moored at 290 Conover St in Red Hook, Brooklyn. In this series of events, The Waterfront Museum has recorded stories from waterfront workers who have handled freight in and near Red Hook, and from their descendants. In this episode, we were joined by waterfront veterans Geof Gaertner and Gaetano Pennisi, who both worked from the 1960s through the 1980s on docks in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and New Jersey during the transition from breakbulk to containerized cargo.
The Tideshift Project was funded in part by Humanities New York with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
In 1879, Scottish-born businessman Robert Gair stumbled upon an invention that would transform packaging and consumer products forever: a fast, mechanized way to manufacture cardboard boxes. This invention would grow into an empire of paper mills, box factories, printing plants, and even marketing and advertising arm—a vertically-integrated packaging company, based in today’s DUMBO, Brooklyn. This virtual program will look at how, a century ago, this present-day corner of the “Brooklyn Tech Triangle” was also a center of innovation for packaged food and household products.
After a two-year hiatus, Fleet Week New York is back! So to mark the day that units arrive in New York for the celebration, we will be looking at some of the participating ships, among them two large Navy ships, four training vessels, two Coast Guard cutters, and a Royal Navy icebreaker, and the opportunities to visit them in Manhattan and Staten Island. We will also look at the history of Fleet Week and other naval reviews in New York, from the return of the victorious fleet after the Spanish-American War, the vast flotilla assembled after World War II, and our present-day Fleet Week tradition dating back to 1988. We will share images and stories of some of the special visits of military vessels to our harbor and to the Brooklyn waterfront.
After a two-year hiatus, the fleet is returning to New York, though with a somewhat smaller contingent. This year, Navy, Coast Guard, and Royal Navy ships will be gathering on Manhattan’s West Side and at Staten Island’s Stapleton Pier—no ships coming to the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, unfortunately. And due to the schedule of the tides, the parade of ships on May 25 will be very year this year; expect the ships to pass through the Narrows by 7:30am, and the ships expect to be at their berths by 8:30am.
Below is our annual guide to some of the units that will be in town—be sure to check out full schedule of events posted by the New York Council Navy League. If you can’t make out to all of these spots during the week, join us on Memorial Day for our Fleet Week Harbor Tour with our friends at Classic Harbor Line, where we will cruise past all the docking locations, get a waterside view of the ships aboard a beautiful motor yacht, and discuss the rich naval history of the harbor.
The Waterfront Museum presents the Barge Family Reunion Celebration, stories and images from people who have lived and worked aboard barges and their families. This is the second part of The Tideshift Project, a three-part series of oral history collecting events presented live, virtually, and in person aboard the 1914 Lehigh Valley Railroad No. 79 wooden lighterage barge moored at 290 Conover St in Red Hook, Brooklyn. In this series of events, The Waterfront Museum will record stories from waterfront workers who have handled freight in and near Red Hook and from their descendants. The Tideshift Project was funded in part by Humanities New York with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
While the Staten Island Ferry is the oldest continuously operating ferry line in New York City, the NYC Ferry to the island is the newest. Ride with us from the Javits Center to Battery Park City to St. George as we explore the highlights of the commute on both sides of the Hudson River and Lower New York Bay. We will zip past many museum ships, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Robbins Reef Lighthouse, and Bayonne’s container terminal. We will then take a stroll around the new ferry landing in St. George and discuss challenges and changes for Staten Island’s North Shore.
Waterfront workers were at the vanguard of the labor movement; the word “strike” has its origins in work stoppages on the London docks in 1768, when sailors “struck” the sails of ships to keep them in port. In New York, skilled shipworkers organized some of the earliest trade associations, and they agitated for steady wages and reduced working hours as far back as the 1820s. At the Brooklyn Navy Yard, federal regulations and political patronage often stifled workers’ ability to strike, but by the time of World War II, the massive workforce of the Yard was heavily unionized, and the good-paying jobs would form the backbone of Brooklyn’s middle class. In this virtual program, we will examine the long history of labor organizing at the Yard, how workers fought for their rights in the absence of formal unions, and how the unions ultimately proved powerless against changing politics and economics of the shipbuilding industry in New York.
The history and legacy of the Second World War can be seen all around us in Brooklyn. Once home to hundreds of factories, shipyards, and warehouses, and responsible for sending millions of service members off to the front lines, Brooklyn was arguably one of the most important communities in waging and winning the war. Using locations from communities across Brooklyn—including famous sites like the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Brooklyn Army Terminal, and lesser-known sites that help tell stories about labor, housing, and culture—as well as primary source documents and oral histories, this program will help illuminate Brooklynites’ experience of World War II.
The (Re)connecting Brooklyn’s History series brings the fascinating work of historians to an audience of students and educators through online presentations and resources for sustained engagement with local history topics.
With the recent release of a feasibility study by the MTA on the “Interborough Express,” a little-known stretch of train tracks is suddenly in the news. The Bay Ridge Branch is a critical link in the freight rail network of New York Harbor and Long Island, carrying goods like construction materials, chemicals, and beer, and connecting with the Hell Gate Bridge and the city’s last cross-harbor rail barge terminal. This proposal would utilize the branch for both freight and commuter rail service, linking with the NYC subway and providing a direct route through southern and eastern Brooklyn and Queens without the need to travel through Manhattan. In this virtual program, we will look at the history of the Bay Ridge Branch, its current use and future potential, and its connection to the long-planned Cross-Harbor Rail Tunnel.