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Historic Fireboat Looking to Dock on Tarrytown Waterfront

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December 8, 2022

By Rick Pezzullo—

The caretakers of a fireboat that just achieved preliminary historical preservation status are lobbying Tarrytown officials to allow the vessel to dock on the village’s waterfront.

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, was approved Thursday by the New York State Parks Review Board for the State and National Register for Historic Places—pending a thumbs up from Tarrytown to be its home port.

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However, the Tarrytown Board of Trustees still isn’t onboard with the idea and indicated it needed more time to review it in a letter it authorized Monday to the state Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Office.

During a November 30 work session, leaders of the nonprofit McKean Fireboat Preservation Project met with trustees to explain why they preferred Tarrytown to be the fireboat’s home base. The fireboat, which first launched in 1954, is currently docked at a boat yard in Stony Point in Rockland County.

“Tarrytown was always our dream location,” Tracy Conte, president of the four-year-old nonprofit group that has possession of the watercraft, told the board. “We need a place where we can access it and work on it. Tarrytown is so ideal for us—all of our hands-on volunteers are in Tarrytown, Sleepy Hollow, Elmsford, Yonkers. We just want to share the fireboat with people. It’s such an attraction.”

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.

“It’s a great piece of history,” stressed David Rocco, vice president of the McKean Fireboat Preservation Project. “We really want Tarrytown.”

One of the requirements of receiving the coveted historical status, which would open up many financial avenues for the organization, is to have a home port.

The fireboat was located in neighboring Sleepy Hollow a few years ago, but it was forced to sail away after residents living in condominiums complained to the state it was blocking their view of the river.

Trustees indicated at the work session last month they were unaware of the effort to have Tarrytown be the home port until recently.

“We all see the value of this boat,” Tarrytown Mayor Karen Brown said. “This is a great project and something we might very well want to be involved in. We cannot though without going to the people of Tarrytown with a little more information.”

“Short term it’s an address. Long term it could be a home,” Trustee Becky McGovern remarked. “My concern is for the safety. I don’t mind where it’s placed.”

Rocco said the Parks Review Board agreed to delay making a final decision for 60 days to allow Tarrytown to discuss the matter further.




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