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I’d love to find more fotos like this, illustrating a line I’ve heard repeatedly, as variation on . . . “NYC used to have huge pier fires.” The smoke here might be wafting over from a NJ pier fires. I’d also like to hear more about the general perception of piers at that time.
My take is that emphasis in fighting the fires was on containing them, ensuring that they didn’t spread inland. Piers, aka covered short term warehouses, were transitioning into oblivion or another life as containerization began to supplant break bulk cargo and moved out of these areas of the sixth boro and airplanes supplanted ocean liners. Pier maintenance slipped and fires of a range of causes broke out.
I’ve heard people say . . . fires burned for weeks.
(I’ve used this foto before.) In some cases . . . in NYC and elsewhere . . . retail areas were built.
The rest of these fotos are from September 2013. Retail buildings, parks and residences, businesses sprang up and continue to. And one of those places, Pier 17 on the East River side of Manhattan is transitioning again. Bravo to the Demanes for holding out, as Howard Hughes promises to “re-energize” the area.
Pier 57 on the Hudson River side is the venue for a similar makeover. What was just a plan a few months back is happening now.
Here’s the interior of Pier 57 a few days ago.
You might recall the Nomadic Museum not far from here . . . nine years ago already.
OK, this is a wandering post. Partly, I wanted to tell a story I heard last week from someone who fought these pier fires thirty years ago. He related that one aspect of fighting these fires was removing “fuel.” In some cases what would burn in these long-smoldering blazes was cargo, which would be pushed into the river. His example was clothing, mens’ dress shirts. Into the river whole skids of them would go. And then, as soon as was possible, many would be fished out . . . because to let them sink would just add to the pollution in the harbor and be wasteful. I don’t know how common this would be, and I know nothing of the attitude of the merchandise owners or insurers . . . The piers were then a very different world.
Thanks to Seth for sharing these fotos. My apologies if I’ve rendered any story inaccurately. I’d love to see more of this type of foto and hear more stories.
Today was the fifth NYC City of Water Day, and today offered a demonstration of the blessing of water.
At 1610, someone on the NYWaterways vessel, where I was narrating a tour, noticed smoke coming from Pier 17, lots of it.
By 1611, Shark, owned by NY Water Taxi & Circle Line downtown, appeared to be first
By 1612, Bravest had arrived on the scene.
All fotos by Will Van Dorp. Here’s an early evening update from the NYTimes.