On May 12th, the New York and New Jersey maritime community gathered at Pier 25 on the Hudson River to ceremonially re-launch the Sailing School Vessel Lettie G. Howard, introducing her in her new role as the flagship of the Port of New York and New Jersey. Owned and operated by South Street Seaport Museum, Lettie is an 1893 Fredonia-model fishing schooner. She serves as an education and training platform for students from across the New York and New Jersey region—beginning with the students of the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School on Governors Island and New Jersey's Marine Academy of Science and Technology at Sandy Hook.
Students and teachers from Harbor School and representatives of the New York Harbor Foundation joined leaders and volunteers from the South Street Seaport Museum to re-introduce her as an active member of New York Harbor's education vessel fleet. This new sail training program has been established through funding from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and a grant from the Schwab Charitable Fund made possible by the generosity of Wendy and Eric Schmidt. Lettie is key to the Port Authority's "Two States, One Port" campaign, also launched on Monday, which will promote local students' study of their home port through place-based maritime education.
Public officials including Margaret Chin, City Councilwoman; Pat Foye, Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; Tom Pendleton, Deputy Executive Director for Career and Work Readiness of the Department of Education of New York City; Catherine McVay Hughes, Chair of Manhattan Community Board One; and Madelyn Wils, President and CEO of the Hudson River Park Trust joined Capt. Gordon Loebl, Commander, Sector New York, and Captain of the Port of New York and New Jersey, along with other officers from the U.S. Coast Guard and industry representatives to welcome Lettie back to active duty. Those who were present recognized the crucial role that Lettie will play in the life of the harbor.
Since Monday's launch, Lettie has rounded her final mark in her journey back to sailing readiness: We're pleased to announce that this past Wednesday, thanks to the hard work of students and Harbor School staff over the last few months, she completed all requirements for re-certification as a Sailing School Vessel and is therefore US Coast Guard approved to embark students on training voyages.
"There's nothing 'replica' about this," said Capt. Aaron Singh, Lettie's captain and Director of Harbor School's Vessel Operations Career and Technical Education program. Aboard Lettie, he emphasizes, young people are learning genuine and valuable maritime skills, as well as general seamanship-- and lessons of teamwork and leadership that can't be learned anywhere else.
South Street Seaport Museum and Harbor School have long been partners-- indeed, Harbor School's first office was located in one of the Museum's buildings. It is fitting that they should join together in this effort to get Lettie sailing again after four years' hiatus. Along with the Harbor Foundation, which funds and manages programs for Harbor School students and works to extend Harbor School's ethic of maritime stewardship to the wider community, the South Street Seaport Museum and the school seek to restore the Harbor to its central place in the life of the city and the region.
It is impossible to tell the story of New York City without telling the story of its Harbor and the men and women who have worked in the maritime industry; just as surely, it is impossible to imagine a resilient future for New York City and the metro region without a thriving port, a healthy harbor, and young people ready to take their place in the industry.