Written by D.F. Karppi Friday, 09 September 2011 00:00
Although retired by the New York City Fire Department in 1994, the John J. Harvey was pressed into service on 9/11.
On September 11, 2001, the boat’s owners had asked FDNY officials for permission to assist in evacuations from Ground Zero. Meanwhile, due to many damaged water mains, fire crews were deprived of water. Officials radioed the Harvey to drop off her passengers as soon as possible and return to the disaster site to pump water, reactivating her official designation Marine 2. Alongside FDNY fireboats Firefighter and John D. McKean, she pumped water at the site for 80 hours, until water mains were restored.
The Harvey’s story was the subject of a 2002 book by author illustrator Maira Kalman: Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey. Ms. Kaiman’s book is quoted as saying, when the John J. Harvey responded, “There were adjustments — forcing water into hoses by jamming soda bottles and wood into nozzles with a sledgehammer — and then the fireboat’s volunteer crew pumped much-needed water to the disaster site. The John J. Harvey proved she was still one of New York’s Bravest!” Maira Kalman brings a New York City icon to life, celebrating the energy, vitality and hope of a place and its people.
Built in 1931 in Brooklyn, John J. Harvey is 130 feet long and 268 net tons, she is one of the most powerful fireboats ever in service. She is in good company and shares a birthday with notable contemporaries like the Empire State Building and George Washington Bridge. She is powered by five 600 hp diesels turning generators coupled to two propulsion motors, and has capacity to pump 18,000 gallons of water a minute.
At the Oyster Festival kickoff, Len Rothberg, event coordinator said, “It sprayed water onto the World Trade Towers site after the attack. It is powerful enough to spray water over the George Washington Bridge.”
The John J. Harvey served the FDNY from her launch in 1931 to her retirement in 1994. Among the marine fires at which she assisted were the Cunard Line pier fire in 1932, the burning of the Normandie in 1942, and the ammunition ship El Estero during World War II. She was named for marine fireman John J. Harvey, killed when the Thomas Willet exploded during a fire. She retired as Marine 2. The John J. Harvey is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as of June, 2000. The oyster sloop Christeen is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a regular at Oyster Festivals where she takes visitors out for tours of the bay.
The Oyster Festival chairs for the tall ships portion of the event are Jennifer Sappell, Long Island North Shore Heritage Area executive director, a boat groupee and kayaker; and Rotarian James Werner, MBA, certified financial planner with the Halliday Financial Group, and a member of the Sagamore Rowing Association where he rows a scull. Their interest in the world of sailing gives them an edge in their volunteer jobs. The two have been bringing the tall ships to the Oyster Festival for several years. Ms. Sappell said Dan Walker is the person who connected her to the fireboat. Ms. Sappell said, “He is how I found the tug Cornell last year for the festival. He is part of a group called Save Our Ships, LTD. They care about our marine heritage.”
Ms. Sappell said she hopes to have a lecture on fireboats sponsored by LINSHA in October at the Oyster Bay Historical Society. “But nothing is firmed up as yet,” she said.
Nichole Menchise, OBHS librarian and curator said executive director Phil Blocklyn is aware of a movie documentary on fire boats from The History Channel and they are trying to find a place to have a viewing of the film with a date, time and location to be announced.
The Oyster Festival, Oct. 15 and 16 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. offers a fun mixture of new activities and old favorites for the entire family. Inspired by the success of a hometown parade honoring Theodore Roosevelt the year before, it has evolved into the largest outdoor festival on Long Island; originally run by the Oyster Bay Chamber of Commerce it is now under the auspices of the Oyster Bay Rotary. Every year, more than 200,000 visitors flock to an Indian summer weekend on the waterfront in downtown Oyster Bay – drawn by live entertainment, Tall Ships, (the American privateer The Lynx; and the 9/11 Fireboat John J. Harvey) top-notch artisans, pirate shows, midway rides, and the iconic oyster eating and shucking contest. The food court, where volunteer chefs and culinary pros work side by side, serves dozens of unique oyster, clam and other seafood treats along with traditional festival fare.
The Oyster Festival is a project of the Oyster Bay Chapter of Rotary Club International for the benefit of local not-for-profits. Visit www.theoysterfestival.org.