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Caretakers of Historic Fireboat Encouraged by Community Support

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January 17, 2023

By Rick Pezzullo—

The caretakers of an historic fireboat are forging ahead with plans to hopefully dock the vessel on Tarrytown’s waterfront.

Leaders of the nonprofit McKean Fireboat Preservation Project held two community information meetings Jan. 10 at the Tarrytown Senior Center where about 30 people in attendance listened to a presentation about the John D. McKean Fireboat, which played a major role in rescue efforts during the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and the “Miracle on the Hudson” airplane landing on January 15, 2009, and asked questions.

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David Rocco, vice president of the McKean Fireboat Preservation Project, said he was encouraged by the feedback from residents.

“I think we may have swayed a few,” he said. “Tarrytown is the perfect location. We want to work with everyone.”

Last month, the fireboat, which was first launched in 1954, was approved by the New York State Parks Review Board for the State and National Register for Historic Places—pending the go-ahead from the Tarrytown Board of Trustees for the village to be the vessel’s home port.

“Let’s face it, Tarrytown is a great place to have a fireboat,” said Tarrytown Trustee Becky McGovern at a Jan. 11 work session.

More than 30 organizations and elected officials have supported the effort, including the Hudson River Valley Greenway.

“Our organizations support the FMPP’s goals of renewing the public’s sense of wonder and awe regarding the preservation of historic vessels such as the John D. McKean Fireboat and combining historic preservation with science, technology, and education innovation,” Scott Keller, Executive Director of the Hudson River Valley Greenway, stated. “It is paramount that we safeguard this irreplaceable treasure. The decision to allow the McKean Fireboat to designate the Tarrytown Marina as her homeport would help do exactly that.”

The fireboat is currently docked at a boat yard in Stony Point in Rockland County. Rocco said Tarrytown would be ideal since most of the volunteers who work on the boat live in Tarrytown, Sleepy Hollow or Elmsford.

Rocco noted Joe Cotter, President and CEO of National Resources, developer of Hudson Harbor in Tarrytown, was fully behind having the fireboat dock in the Tarrytown Marina.

“We just need that address,” Rocco said. “We want to be there. People that work on the boat are part of the fabric of the community.”

In 2010, the fireboat was retired from the New York City Fire Department. In 2016, it was purchased at an auction for $56,000. Since then, more than $500,000 has been spent for its upkeep and 25,000 hours have been donated by volunteers.

“Having an attraction on the waterfront brings benefits and detriments,” Village Administrator Richard Slingerland said during a Jan. 12 Tarrytown Planning Board work session.

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