Red Hook

Union workers paint the Mary A. Whalen for free

This oil tanker cultural center is the belle of the Red Hook piers

April 18, 2016 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Mary A. Whalen, Red Hook's floating cultural center, gets spiffed up by workers from Local 806. Eagle photos by Lore Croghan
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Painters Ahoy!

Here are photos the Brooklyn Eagle took of unionized workers spiffing up the Mary A. Whalen, free of charge.

The belle of the Red Hook piers is a decommissioned oil tanker, a 1930s-vintage vessel that waterfront advocate Carolina Salguero has transformed into the home of non-profit organization PortSide NewYork.

Workers from the Structural Steel and Bridge Painters of Greater New York, AKA Local 806 of New York State District Council 9, spent Saturday morning on the ship. Its berth is at Pier 11 in Atlantic Basin next to the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal.

It was a fine day on the shoreline, fortunately, since they reported for duty less than an hour after sunrise.

Their selfless labor was part of a Community Day of Action — in which workers from District Council 9 of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades helped non-profits throughout New York, contributing work statewide with an estimated value of more $80,000.

For those aboard the Mary A. Whalen, the task of the day was to apply a first coat of paint to the house, which is the portion of the ship that sits on top of the deck.

“I’m totally pumped,” Salguero said as they started grinding and sanding old paint off the house as prep work for the job.

Local 806 workers will be making return visits to apply additional coats of signal red, as the color is called. It was donated by International Paint. The total value of the union workers’ volunteer labor on this job will be more than $200,000.

PortSide NewYork and the union have an ongoing working relationship. Local 806 uses the Mary A. Whalen as a training site for skilled painting and metal polishing.

“We’re grateful for the opportunity to conduct our apprenticeship training here and provide the promise of jobs for middle-class America,” said Local 806’s Aiden Suca, a second-generation painter who trains the apprentices.

City Council Member Carlos Menchaca (D-Red Hook, Sunset Park) stopped by the ship on Saturday to thank the painters for their efforts.  

PortSide NewYork offers water, waterfront and maritime-themed programs, services and advocacy and works both on and off the Mary A. Whalen, which is the world’s only oil tanker cultural center. She is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

PortSide NewYork, which calls itself “a living lab for better urban waterways,” was awarded a White House Champions of Change award for its post-Hurricane Sandy aid to storm-torn Red Hook.

The non-profit just launched a campaign to raise $20,000 by the end of June to support a program called Red Hook WaterStories that tells the history of the neighborhood via a water theme.

See for further details about the program and the fund-raising.


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