She is a Fireboat - John J. Harvey

- by Mousumi DuttaRay

As a newcomer to the city I was looking for an apartment to live. I have come to the city before, infact, a few times. As a graduate student, I first visited in a conference meeting. Next time it was to visit a friend on a Christmas Holiday and then again to meet the celebrated artist from India by the name Paresh Maity. I had come one more time just as a tourist. It was not an easy or a quick trip from the midwest. It needed lot of planning ahead of time and a list of items on the agenda for the trip. Each time the stay was hectic, as always is in the case of tourists. Finally, we moved for good and now I am a proud New Yorker!

After moving to the city and living in the West Village on a make-shift arrangement with a friend, we decided to look for an apartment in the city. On one such hunting trip we came to the Battery Park city and went to see an apartment on Rector Street. It was a nice apartment with a cool view of the Hudson river and the Lady Liberty. The owner of the apartment was a gentleman in his late 50s. As we were amazed by the breathtaking view he started giving tips about the things that we could do on weekends on the Hudson. Most probably he was making a case for the apartment but looking back I am glad that I had had that conversation with him. He was the one who told us about John J. Harvey. He did not remember the exact name but said the trip on the fireboat is something to be cherished. We did not get that apartment for some other reason but we moved in to the neighborhood and we can boast of getting the "room with a view".

Few days on the weekends we spotted the ship that makes the rainbow. We called it the Fountain boat as the water pours out her many sprouts. I took out my camera and shot it and named it as "Rainbowmaker'. Today, NY 360 degree revealed to me her real identity. Indeed, she is the fireboat, she is John J. Harvey.
It is interesting though, the name she bears is not common to her gender, so indeed she is unique in her own right. (I wondered always why a ship is always feminine, but I can google it later. Now, let's talk about her).

She was born in 1931. At birth she was 130 ft and 268 net tons, is among the most powerful fireboats ever in service. She has five 600 HP diesel engines, and has the capacity to pump 18,000 gallons of water a minute. Her pumps are powerful enough - were so since when she and the George Washington Bridge were both brand new. She was retired from service in 1994, by the New York City Fire Department. Her current owners, got her in 1999 and are taking good care of her. For her service and achievements, she was placed on The National Register of Historic Places in June 2000.
Her owners have been working since 1999 to raise awareness about the importance of historic vessels to the history of our City and our nation - and they are succeeding! They make trips with her up the Hudson, and promote the interest in the waterfront for towns in the state of New York. They offer public access to our harbor, training in new skills, and a chance to preserve an important part of our history.
Her ongoing restoration has become the focus of a growing community based voluntary effort.

Where is she now? She has a home in Pier 66 Maritime, North River (as the lower Hudson is properly called), between West 26th and West 27th Streets. This historic ship’s pier is home to Frying Pan (a National-Register listed light ship) Bertha, an English tug now undergoing restoration, and a variety of small human-powered boating activities. In fact, the pier itself is really a historic Lackawanna railway barge. There is also a wonderful grill with a bar in season.

A wildly diverse community of interest has formed around this great vessel, including retired professionals, volunteers and members of the local and national community. Everyone is welcome to join ! Be a guest and let her be the host of one of the most wonderful and memorable days of your life on the Hudson.