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Capital Region Mayors: Keep The Half Moon On The Hudson

WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

The mayors of the tri-cities are on board of an initiative to try to keep the Half Moon replica ship docked locally on the Hudson River.

Built in 1989 by Dr. Andrew Hendricks, The Replica Ship The Half Moon is a working, full-scale model of the Dutch vessel noted explorer Henry Hudson sailed in 1609 when he discovered the river that bears his name.

The ship has sailed far and wide as a uniquely iconic representative of Dutch colonial history, from Lake Michigan to the Atlantic coast of the Carolina, but it spends much of its time at home in the historic waters of the Hudson River Valley. Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy notes the Half Moon has served as a floating classroom for New York students.    "Individuals go out and it becomes a life-changing experience where they have the opportunity to sail on that ship."

But behind the scenes, a search was quietly being conducted to find the vessel a "permanent winter home," and that's where Mayor Kathy Sheehan came in...     "It wasn't as though it didn't have any place to stay this winter. I met with a group of people, Phillip Morris came, a small group that met and said 'Let's lay out a plan for what we need to do and work with mayors up and down the river to determine what we can do to find that permanent home for the winter.’ It was after that the announcement was made that the intention right now is to move it to Hoorn."

In mid-December by the board of directors of the Albany-based New Netherland Museum announced that the City Council in Hoorn, Netherlands, voted to adopt the Half Moon.

The announcement rekindled an unpleasant memory for Proctors CEO Phillip Morris.  "In Chautauqua County where I lived for 25 years,the Sea Lion was a 17th century vessel, handcrafted, sailing on Lake Chautauqua. The community there did not want to embrace it. After five years of sailing on the lake it was sold and taken apart with a chainsaw. So I immediately read the problems and possibilities and went to the mayor and said 'No way.'"

Albany historian and former Assemblyman Jack McEneny argued the Half Moon is irreplaceable.    "How do you replace the lapping of the waves, the call of the gulls, the creaking of the masts and the ropes? How do you create in just simple writing and picture books, the planks, the uniqueness..."

There was a plan and funding to build a permanent home for the museum included in the losing Hard Rock casino proposal for Rensselaer’s waterfront.  Now, plans call for the ship to set sail for the Netherlands in 2015. Once in Hoorn it would become part of a historic site managed by the Westfries Museum

Speaking at Albany City Hall Tuesday, Mayor Sheehan was asked how the arrangement happened.    "I don't know. And that's really the reason that I wanted to hold a press conference. There've been conversations. I've sent a letter to Dr. Hendricks, and I really want to know, what is it that we need to do in order to keep the Half Moon here. That question is the one that I really want to see answered, so that we can at least then go out to the broader community, and say 'This is what it will take to keep it here' and whether that's dollars, whether its a permanent dockage, what that might look like is really important. We need a chance. We should have a chance."

Troy Mayor Rosamilia pledged his support to keep the Half Moon:  “We’re developing our waterfront, we're developing our sea wall. It's a regional collaborative effort. Cities working together to maintain and improve history. To have that relived over and over again so that our children will have this opportunity as well.” Center for Economic Growth CEO Mike Tucker agreed: “When you look at the impact this would have on culture, the arts, and education, this is a floating marketing vessel for Capital region history.”

A woman who answered the phone at the New Netherland Museum said no one was available to comment.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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