July 6, 2006
Intrepid Will Cross River for Refitting, Then Return to a Rebuilt Pier
By PATRICK McGEEHAN
A computer-generated rendering of the refurbished Intrepid and the rebuilt Pier 86. The Concorde is to be moved onto the pier, and after the carrier is patched and painted in New Jersey and Staten Island, hopes are to have it back by Fleet Week in May 2008.
The aircraft carrier Intrepid, the military museum that has been docked on the Hudson River for 24 years, is scheduled to close on Oct. 1 and will be moved soon afterward to New Jersey for repairs and Staten Island for renovation.
The final details are still subject to the nautical and political tides, but Bill White, the president of the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, said yesterday that about a month after the museum closed, the carrier would be towed away from its mooring at Pier 86, West 46th Street and 12th Avenue, and is not expected to return for 18 months.
The museum's directors approved the general plan last week after Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the City Council agreed to provide a total of $17 million over the next two years for the overhaul of the carrier and the pier, Mr. White said. Gov. George E. Pataki pledged an additional $5 million in state economic development funds. In addition, $35.5 million in federal funds would raise the public financing for the project to $57.5 million, which should cover all the costs, he said.
Governor Pataki and Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn are scheduled to hold a news conference about the overhaul plan aboard the carrier today.
Arnold Fisher, a developer whose family has run the Intrepid Foundation for more than 20 years, said that without the money from the city and state, the Intrepid's future as a military museum was uncertain.
"The ship goes back to the Navy if this didn't all come together," said Mr. Fisher, chairman of the private, nonprofit foundation.
Ms. Quinn said, "My sense is that if the city hadn't stepped forward, that the Intrepid's days may very well have been numbered." She added, "To have lost the Intrepid now would have sent a terrible message to the men and women who are fighting overseas."
Mr. Fisher said he would push hard for the pier to be rebuilt quickly so that the Intrepid can return for Fleet Week, the Navy's annual celebration here, in May 2008.
While it is gone, New York City will be missing one of its more popular tourist attractions, the focal point for military celebrations and an emergency location for federal agencies in the event of a terrorist attack or natural disaster.
Within hours of the Sept. 11 attacks, the F.B.I. asked for space on the carrier to house hundreds of its agents displaced from their offices downtown, Mr. White said. The museum remained closed for five weeks while the agents were there, he said.
After Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast last summer, the Federal Emergency Management Agency asked to use the Intrepid in the event New York is hit by a hurricane or other disaster, Mr. White said. He said the Intrepid's executives have agreed to honor any such requests.
"We're an auxiliary to them," Mr. White said. "We might not be the first place they go, but they know they can go here if necessary."
Last fall, when the Intrepid's officials were planning a new design for Pier 86, they considered a plan with two levels, the lower one being available for law enforcement agencies in an emergency, Mr. White said. That plan was scrapped in favor of a plan for a single-deck pier with red and blue stripes on its top. A Concorde supersonic transport jet, which now sits on a barge on the opposite side of the pier from the Intrepid, will be placed on the end of the rebuilt pier, he said.
Intrepid officials considered trying to repair the pier without moving the carrier, but they decided that doing that could take five years and cost $100 million, Mr. White said. In the current plan, the work on the pier is expected to cost $35 million, most of which would come from $31 million that was appropriated by Congress in late 2004 for the Hudson River Park Trust, a city-state authority that controls the pier. Another Congressional appropriation of $4.5 million to the museum is pending, he said.
The 900-foot-long carrier, which has not moved since it arrived in 1982, will go first to a dry dock in Bayonne, N.J., for up to 60 days of patching, scraping and repainting of the hull, Mr. White said. From there, it will be towed to a pier on Staten Island, where, at the invitation of the mayor, it will stay rent-free until Pier 86 has been rebuilt, he said.
The carrier will not be open to the public while it is away. Instead, the foundation will use the time to make some improvements, including installing a mezzanine in the main exhibit hall and creating space for the public to get to the anchor chain, whose links weigh 270 pounds each.
Moving the 40,000-ton Intrepid will require six to eight tugboats with at least 5,000 horsepower each, Mr. White said. Getting the carrier out into the river will take about six hours and moving it gently to Bayonne four more, he said.
Before it can be moved, the silt that has piled up around the hull on the river bottom must be dredged. Mr. White said he hoped to receive approval for the dredging from the Army Corps of Engineers within two weeks. Harbor officials also have to approve moving the carrier.
The foundation's directors have their sights set on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, as the day to send the carrier down the river with fanfare, but the tides may not cooperate. Tide tables show that the river may be at its highest on the evening of Nov. 4, Mr. White said, making that the best time to try to dislodge the Intrepid.
"If we can move it on another day, we're pretty confident we can make it the 11th," Mr. White said.
Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company