At the dawn of the nineteenth century, the US Navy established six naval shipyards to build, repair, and outfit the fleet. From the “original six”—Boston, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Portsmouth, Norfolk, and Washington—the public shipyard system would expand over the next 150 years, peaking at 11 in 1943. Today, only four Naval Shipyards still exist, but as the other sites have been decommissioned over the past five decades, they have been repurposed as industrial parks, residential neighborhoods, container ports, and more. This virtual program will examine the history of these yards’ closure, the challenges and successes of their repurposing, and the future of the country’s active public shipyards.
The fastest way to the beach is on the NYC Ferry, so join us for another virtual boat tour as we cruise the Lower New York Bay. We will pick up the ferry in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, then make our way under the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, past Coney Island, and down to the Rockaways. Along the way, we will discuss the forts and islands that used to protect the harbor, the history of recreation along the city’s Atlantic seaboard, and the rich aquatic life of Jamaica Bay and the New York Bight. At the end of the tour, we’ll take a walk across the Rockaway Peninsula and virtually stroll along the beach.
Over the past four centuries, the Battery at the tip of Manhattan has evolved, from a fortification to immigration station to park to National Monument. On this virtual walking tour, we will take advantage of the sweeping views of the harbor, share the history of Castle Clinton and the park, and explore some of its many monuments. The Battery is in many ways New York City’s World War II memorial, housing the Eastern Sea Frontier Memorial, the Norwegian Veterans Memorial, the haunting American Merchant Mariners’ Memorial, and the Museum of Jewish Heritage, a living memorial to the Holocaust.
Renowned nautical photographer Jonathan Atkin takes us on a high-flying tour of New York’s working waterfront, which he often photographs from the air to capture container ships, cruise liners, military vessels, and any other type of working craft. For every shoot, Atkin must coordinate logistics among at least 40 people in a high value, high security setting while hoping the weather cooperates. His experience as a merchant seaman and his knowledge of the harbor and its operations are critical to his success. Come along for a ride like no other as Atkin shares a bit of his knowledge and some of his work.
Join us for this special program, presented in partnership with the Transportation Institute and the New York Council Navy League, to hear firsthand stories from the Coast Guard and maritime industry personnel who took part in the 9/11 Boatlift. As tragedy unfolded on September 11, 2001, ordinary Americans did what Americans do at their best — they answered the call to help their fellow citizens. With Lower Manhattan streets blocked and the subways closed, crowds built up along accessible points of the shoreline. Captains and crew of the ferries already in the area, assisted by NYPD, started loading passengers to bring them to safety. With that, the largest maritime evacuation in history began.
To mark the 230th birthday of the United States Coast Guard, we’re looking back at the history of the “always ready” service. Due to New York’s position as one of the country’s largest ports, the Coast Guard has ensured its safety and security for more than two centuries, and today they have the largest presence of any military service branch in New York City. We will share stories of the Coast Guard fighting U-boats in both World Wars, hunting bootleggers during Prohibition, and ensuring the safe navigation of the harbor for everybody from container ships to kayakers. We will also be joined by Coast Guard veteran Ramon Ortiz, who served aboard the icebreaking tug USCGC Sturgeon Bay and in Coast Guard Sector New York.
Unlock the mystery of maritime navigation with Mary Habstritt of the Lilac Preservation Project. At night many of our waterways become constellations of flashing lights. These Aids to Navigation (or AtoNs) keep our marine traffic moving safely, but most of us have only the vaguest idea what they mean or what it takes to establish and maintain them. The Lilac, a steam-powered United States Lighthouse Service (later US Coast Guard) tender introduces the public to the world of AtoNs and helps us see our waterways with new insight.
For just the second time in 33 years, Fleet Week New York has been cancelled this year, so instead, we will look back at Fleet Weeks and naval reviews held over the past century in New York Harbor. From the return of the victorious fleet after World War II to OpSails to ships of the contemporary Navy, we will share images and stories of some of the special visits of military vessels to our harbor and to the Brooklyn waterfront. We normally host our Fleet Week tours with our friends at Classic Harbor Line, so they will be joining us to share about their own beautiful fleet of wooden sailboats and motor yachts that take visitors around the harbor.
After nearly 12 years of leading tours at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, one of the most difficult questions we get – and almost always from young people – is this: Were there slaves here?
This question is vexing not just because of the complex and painful subject matter, but also because the historical record is incomplete. The result is usually an imprecise and unsatisfying answer. In short, yes, enslaved people were an integral part of life at the Brooklyn Navy Yard for the 60 years leading up to the Civil War, just as they were across Brooklyn and New York City.
This is an effort to unpack that complexity and get somewhere closer to the historical truth of the matter.
World War II came to a close in 1945, and looking back 75 years, it is hard to believe that Americans on the cusp of war in 1940 were as removed from the Civil War as we are from World War II today. Imagine veterans of that war, fought with horses and muskets, still alive to share their memories in the Atomic Age.
Today, we have a dwindling number of World War II veterans, all now well north of 90 years old (unlike the Civil War, there were no 10-, 11-, and 12-year-old drummer boys or powder monkeys). So throughout 2020, we are offering special content on our World War II Tours of the Brooklyn Navy Yard on the first Sunday of each month that will focus on different aspects of the human story of the war, utilizing our vast archive or oral histories and other personal stories of life on the home front and on the front lines.>> Continue reading