Elizabeth Wood took the following pics just over three years ago; I hated the gloomy light that day, but now I find it appropriate given the topic this post. Below is a letter from Peter Stanford, founder of South Street Seaport Museum, who thinks the current chairman and director should resign.
<< … a long slide from four piers under Seaport Museum control and a museum that was operating in the black until corporate managers took control, who sold out to Rouse in 1980. In those days you helped lead “a revival of spirit” (as a NY Times headline called it) in 1980, when Jakob (Isbrandtsen] and the Wavertee Volunteers turned to, supported by NMHS, and saved the ship from the sale or scrapping as set forth in the Rouse plan. Today we have one pier and have lost our urban renewal status which gave the Seaport Museum control of waterfront development which now proceeds regardless of museum needs and interests.
Seaport management asked Terry Walton and myself, with another seaport founder, Robert Ferraro, to develop an outline plan for the ships. We’ve now done this, after consultation with leaders in the Mystic, San Diego, and Erie maritime museums. These good souls run active, creative ship programs. And they have the vision to see that failure of the historic ships’ cause in New York would deal a deadly blow to the movement nationally – and in fact, internationally. As soon as we have final approval by Ray Ashley in San Diego, Dana Hewson in Mystic, Walter Rybka in Erie we’d like to circulate a summary of the Ships Plan to bring fresh life and interest to the ships of South Street.
We might also hold a meeting of informed people on what the Seaport needs and what it can deliver. We might hold this meeting on Maritime Day, 22 May, during the scheduled visit of the Gazela of Philadelphia, the last square-rigger in the immemorial Newfoundland fisheries – Jakob’s old skipper Robert Rustchak is relief skipper and trustee of the ship, and I hope he can help us do this in proper style. And I hope others of like mind may also weigh in to get a public campaign rolling.
ACTION THIS DAY! Meantime we urgently need e-mails to Mayor Bloomberg (www.nyc.govt/mayor) and the NY Times (212) 639-9675), to let the Mayor (www/nyc.gov/mayor) know that the fate of the Seaport Museum cannot be left to real estate interests in high cabal, and to alert Times readers to back-alley dealings over an institution which has been a resource and inspiration to many New Yorkers – which needs their support to tell the story of New York as a city built by seafaring, which is vital its well-being and progress on the sea trades today and tomorrow. >>
To any who wants to e-mail Mayor Michael Bloomberg, put this address on your browser line http://www.nyc.gov/html/mail/html/mayor.html This will bring you to a form to email the mayor. Max 300 words. What to write?
Whatever you want, whatever you know. If you don’t know much, keep in mind that ( as Rick Old Salt reports) Peter Stanford, Museum founder, has so little confidence in the the current leadership of the Museum that he calls for them to resign. I’m not privy to the inner workings at the Museum, but I did invest 1000 volunteer hours there, ending a few years back because the low morale among folks who worked there just broke my heart. If you know anyone who has ever worked there, ask them.
A vibrant port city, with its active sixth boro, deserves an energetic and maricentric museum, determined to provide residents and visitors to New York ” a living maritime museum … on New York’s historic waterfront, where a century ago a thousand bowsprits pointed the way to commercial greatness,” as Robert S. Gallagher wrote in October 1969. And a functional research library . . . that would be nice, too. May brighter days lie ahead. And may Peking and her sister vessels breathe again.