August 20, 2001
Old Ship Arrives in Area (Capital District)
by Jeff Buell
ALBANY - One of the largest fireboats ever assembled docked alongside the USS Slater Sunday, in an attempt to raise awareness of historic boats on the Hudson River.
The John J. Harvey, built in 1931, serviced New York City by fighting fires along the shore until its retirement in 1994. After a five-year period of silence, a group of eight people bought the boat at an auction from the city for about $28,000. Since then, the group has been restoring the boat.
"We wanted to save the boat from going to the scrap yard," David Beatty, one of the boat's owners, said. "We are trying to bring awareness to the boat and complete the restoration we've begun."
According to Beatty, to date, the group has spent more than $100,000 restoring it. Though much work has been done, he said, the most shockin aspect of the restoration was when the group first took the boat out of water and began to work.
The fire boat, the John J. Harvey arrives
in Albany Sunday. Today it will be in Troy.
"It was scary when you got this boat out of the water and you started to look at it, and there are five holes in it," Beatty said. "We were lucky the Fire Department took such good care of the boat. The holes were from dripping inside, which was much better than what we first feared."
Last year, the John J. Harvey was placed on the state and national registers of Historic Places. Huntley Gill, another of the owners and chairman of the North River Historic Ship Society, said the honor is deserved and feels more boats should receive similar designations.
"These boats and ships have played such an important part in the creation and growth of New York City and the Hudson (River), it is important that they are preserved and that people appreciate their historic importance in the growth of the region," Gill said.
One of the visitors on the boat Sunday was 65-year-old Bob Lenney, who piloted the boat for 25 years while it was in action. Lenney made the trip from New York City just to see the old ship. As he talked about it, he exuded the joy of a child on Christmas morning. "I'm so excited, this is my baby," the Long Island resident said. "I never thought I'd see it again once I retired. When these guys bought it, it was one of the best days of my life."
While the boat was docked in Albany, free tours were given. Included in the tour was the firing of the water cannons. Using water directly from the Hudson, more than 18,000 gallons of river is pumped out per minute.
The history of the boat is also talked about on the tour, which took place every half hour. Beatty explained to one group that the most famous fire the John J. Harvey had participated in is that on the French oceanliner, the Normandy.
The 130- by 28-foot boat will leave Albany today at 2 p.m. and head to Troy, where it will dock behind City Hall. The first 60 people at the boat will be allowed to make the journey up the river. As it arrives in the city it is expected demonstrate a full water display.
While in Troy, it will be open for tours from 3 to 5 p.m. For more information go to the group's website at www.fireboat.org.
ŠThe Record 2001
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