When the SS United States Conservancy sent out a solemn SOS last month begging to keep America’s rusting flagship out of the scrapyard, it got a spate of impressive publicity and more than $100,000 dollars in donations, barely enough to keep it tied up in Philly for two more months. More significant though, the SSUS got a rent-free invite back to New York, whence it sailed in its mid-century heyday.
"Right here in Brooklyn, we are looking at one very serious possibility, a port that is big enough for her," says Paul Stipkovich of SSUS Conservancy, NY Chapter.
That port is in Red Hook, Brooklyn, where the owner of the Gowanus Bay Terminal is offering free mooring for the 990-foot long ship until it snags a developer with deep pockets to bankroll the conversion into a mixed-use tourism venue.
"We have the space to put the ship and people can now visualize what it can come to be,” says John Quadrozzi Jr., owner of the Gowanus Bay Terminal. “We have never had a location that is ready, able and willing to take the ship."
Quadrozzi says towing the vessel from Philly could cost as little as $300,000, while estimates to refurbish the ship come in as high as $300 million. In addition, there is red tape.
"Like anything, as a permanent use, there would be permitting issues that you would have to overcome, but it is nothing that is not doable," he says.
So for now, “The Big U,” holder of the transatlantic speed record, continues its race against time.
"If we keep up this momentum, regular New Yorkers, politicians and businessmen are paying more attention and they realize there is an opportunity here that really would be a crime to lose,” Stipkovich says.