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Peking is going to Germany and the Wavetree is renovated


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The departure of Peking for Germany is going to come as a big surprise to many. News about the planing of her move has not been widely disseminated and one day the ship will be gone and people are going to be shocked. In New York City she is the most visible tall ship simply because she is so huge. Her masts are visible from blocks away, poking above the lower buildings of the downtown skyline. Its a view new Yorkers have gotten used to since the 70's. But the ship is simply too big for the South Street Seaport Museum. Shes 377' long and 170' high. When the Museum decided they couldn't keep her, they started looking around to see if any other U.S. cities could take her, free of charge. Many would have, but no city with a waterfront has a spot long enough to accommodate the addition of a 377' historic ship. Since the 70's, urban waterfront development has (rightly)  returned what were once industrial zones to public leisure areas where the citizens can enjoy the water. The city of Hamburg, in Germany, has a very long industrial waterfront history and this is the city where she was built and which was her home port during her working life, AND they had room for her. A German Non-Profit was formed to raise funds to get Peking to Germany ( even as a free gift, money would have to be found to pay for the trip across the Atlantic on a heavy lift ship) and this effort failed. At this time two years ago it looked as if the Peking would have to be melted down for scrap! Last year the German Federal Government stepped in and announced that they would pay for the transfer of the Peking and for a Museum complex at the Hamburg waterfront. A multi million Euro proposition. The last I heard there was still some trouble on the German end concerning where this new Museum will be located.

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So why couldn't the South Street Seaport Museum simply keep the Peking and expend whatever resources were needed to keep her sound? The short answer is they did not have the money. The longer answer is that back in the late 60's when the Museum was formed and the Peking acquired, the land it was set up on was literally an unpleasant stinky backwater. The famous wholesale Fulton Fish Market operated all night every night with hundreds of 18 wheeler trucks loading and unloading fish in the open air, the nearby 19th century buildings had been continually used as smoke houses and fish processing businesses since before electricity. The entire district was greasy and stank of fish. With the closing of the fish market those 19th century buildings were all rehabbed and quickly became some of the most sought after real estate in Manhattan. This drove the gentrification of the waterfront and new public parks were built directly adjacent to pier 15 and 16, the longtime home of the Peking the Wavertree the Pioneer and the Lettie G Howard and the Lightship Ambrose. All this took place over the last five years, changing every dynamic in the area. City agencies scrutinized the situation and found that the Museum had spread its fleet over an area larger than had been originally allocated to it. Back in the old days nobody cared, but now there was a lot at stake. The city completely tore down pier 15 and built from scratch a beautiful public park pier, and Wavertree was tied up there while the Museum and the city tried to sort out the issue. The upshot was that the Museum was told it could no longer tie up historic vessels on pier 15. Since the Museum had prioritized Wavertree as the ship they wanted to save, the difficult decision was taken to let go of the Peking. Wavertree went to Staten Island for her comprehensive hull restoration work but when she returns the city will expect the Peking to be gone. The portion of pier 15 the Wavertree was on will be rented to for-profit excursion ferry companies.


I think we all took Peking for granted over the years. I never saw a model built of her in recent memory, although the Museum has one or two in their collection. Consider that there are a lot of model builders in the NYC area and I find it odd that she was always overlooked as a subject, Model builders always want clear unambiguous data and here the actual ship has been sitting right here all this time. I built a ship in a bottle of her but that hardly counts. When she goes away I am going to feel guilty that I never took the time to build a big model of her.

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