Citizen of Tribeca | Fireboat McKean arrives at Pier 25 for summer vacation


It was quite a sight yesterday to see the Fireboat John D. McKean arrive at Pier 25. On one of the nicest days of the year, there were FDNY bagpipes to greet him on the quay, and his (her?) cousin, the John J. Harvey, who is moored in Hudson River Park at Pier 66 Maritime, offered a water demonstration as a welcome.

The scene looked like some sort of pump-boat mating ritual (which is weird now that I’ve already said they were cousins): the Harvey fired all of her water cannons as she sailed in the middle from the river. The McKean then walked over to him and did a 180 in front of the boat – and at one point (see photo above) was perfectly aligned in his shadow with the sea spray as a backdrop. Then the McKean launched its own water cannons – and at one point it crept so close to Pier 26 that they sprayed people at the end of the pier, much to the delight of the rest of us. we who have been watching for 25.

It was pure spectacle and a great way to welcome a historic ship to the neighborhood.

The McKean doesn’t have a docking dock – it’s a bit of a wanderer, said the village resident who rescued it from the junkyard, Edward Taylor. (He also owns Fish, the restaurant that’s been on Bleecker for 24 years, and Farmer and the Fish in Westchester). He bought it at a city auction four years ago, then converted it to a non-profit. (It was built in 1954 in Camden.)

“We didn’t want to see the boat go for scrap,” Taylor said, “and then you fall in love with an old boat like this.” He was hoping he could live in Tarrytown permanently, but some neighbors have complained so now it’s just about surfing the docks. Its crew is mainly made up of volunteer firefighters.

He says she is now in perfect condition and will be moored at Pier 25 until October. In return, it should be open to the public for tours; when they get this program, I will post it.

John D. McKean the man was a marine engineer for the FDNY serving on the Fireboat George B. McClellan in 1953 when a live steam explosion on board disabled the boat and fatally injured McKean. He remained at his post despite his injuries, trying to keep the ship under control. He died five days later.

When the new pumpboat was ready the following year, she was christened the John D. McKean by the wife of Mayor Robert Wagner in the shipyard and sailed in New York Harbor in the fall of 1954. The McKean’s son, grandson and great-grandson all served in the FDNY.

The boat went on to have some notable times serving the city: it helped pull Sully’s plane, rescued firefighters on September 11, and was involved in the Staten Island terminal fire. So it’s also good that Tarrytown was grumpy about receiving her.

“The boat should be in New York – it’s a piece of New York history,” Taylor said. “And in winter or in autumn, we will go up the river.”


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