Iconic Fireboat John J. Harvey of New York Harbor

Fireboat John J. Harvey
Fireboat John J. Harvey

The public will have a chance to ride aboard the iconic 1931 fireboat of New York Harbor, John J. Harvey, at the North River Historic Ship Festival on Saturday, June 22nd. Reserved tickets have already sold out but a limited number of walk-up tickets will be available to the public. Tickets and boarding will be at the Hudson River Park Pier 25 in Lower Manhattan.

This fireboat is one of the most powerful ever built, pumping up to 18,000 gallons of water a minute. Most people see her when she is putting on a show with the water and spray flying high in the air. This always gets and holds spectators’ attention. She “performs” in the harbor on the Fourth of July to an enthusiastic crowd. But this audience favorite is not just for show. She helped put out the Cunard Line pier fire in 1932, the Normandie fire in 1942, the ammunition ship El Estero during World War II, and remained with the New York City Fire Department until her retirement in 1994. She was purchased at an auction in 1999 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. Her mission combines restoration, preservation, education about harbor history and firefighting, plus she offers trips open to the public. Volunteers are always welcome.

On September 11, 2001, she proved herself once again as a rescue boat. People trying to get away from the destruction climbed aboard. As Harvey was heading north, the fire department said to drop off passengers quickly, that boat was needed to help put out fires. It had been years since she had been used for that but she did her job and kept at it for three days, pumping a total of 38 million gallons. She has received numerous awards and certificates in recognition for her heroism on 9/11. A few of them are: 2002 Congressional Record, 2001 National Trust for Historic Preservation, 2001 Online Preservation, and 2002 Waterfront Conference.

The Empire State Building, the George Washington Bridge, and John J. Harvey were all completed in 1931. In fact, when she and the bridge were new, her pumps shot water over the bridge’s roadway. Even now when riding aboard, passengers should be prepared by get wet. It’s a fun sight to see at a distance, and amazing to see up close.

Written by: Cynthia Collins, Museum Correspondent

Fireboat John J. Harvey

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