The Sailor Man In New York by Steven Thrasher
December 18, 2009 7:21 AM Subscribe
Long before Chelsea Piers was a sporting complex and the South Street Seaport a mall, the city was lined with active piers. The city's residents were amply employed by the shipping trade, but containerization needed more land than would ever be available in the city: Massive ports sprouted in Elizabeth and Newark, and ships disappeared from the city. Efficient cranes replaced longshoremen, and the time in port for ships shrank from about a week to about a day.
"The technology changed the geography," says William Fensterer, a chaplain who has been with SIH almost since its new building opened in 1964. "It doesn't look like On the Waterfront anymore," he adds. When he started out, he says, he would wander on foot from pier to pier in Manhattan and Brooklyn and board ships, with nary a guard in site. But those piers have largely vanished.
And along with them, the seafarer, once ubiquitous in New York, has become invisible.
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