By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
RED HOOK — PortSide New York, a maritime-themed organization that has hosted cultural and historic programs and tours aboard the retired oil tanker Mary A. Whalen, is in a financial crisis and needs to raise emergency funds so that it won’t have to shut down on April 30.
According to PortSide, the home that the city promised on Pier 11 in the Atlantic Basin in 2009 “is not coming in a timely fashion.”
While the Mary A. Whalen has a temporary home at the Red Hook Container Port, new, heightened security rules announced by the Department of Homeland Security in 2009 make it very difficult to present public events there, according to Carolina Salguero, PortSide’s founder and director. If visitors don’t have a federal Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) card, they have to be escorted for five blocks from the gate to the ship. This makes visits by school groups very difficult, let alone events with large audiences.
Among the programs PortSide has presented have been a performance of the Puccini opera Il Tabarro aboard the Mary A. Whalen in the container port (before the new Homeland Security regulations); a literary reading at the GMD Shipyard at the Brooklyn Navy Yard (when the Mary A. Whalen was visiting the Navy Yard); folk concerts; and numerous ship tours. PortSide also hosted a visit by historic Dutch flat-bottom boats during the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s arrival in New York Harbor.
“PortSide needs to have a home confirmed by April 30,” reads a statement issued by the group, “or we will close and the tanker Mary A. Whalen will likely be scrapped, as there are few commercial uses for her.”
A public meeting has been scheduled for this Monday, Feb. 27, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Long Island College Hospital to show support for PortSide. After the meeting, supporters will move across the street to Montero’s, 73 Atlantic Ave. At least one private fundraising event has also been scheduled.
Salguero, who is also an award-winning photographer, told the Eagle that “six years of homelessness” has prevented PortSide from reaching its full potential. Similarly, Capt. David Sharp, head of the Waterfront Barge Museum, also in Red Hook, says that not having a permanent location makes raising funds difficult. Sharp says, “I’ve been a big fan of Carolina and her vision since she came to Red Hook, and if she had a permanent location, her organization would thrive.”