After 176 years the Seaman’s Church Institute is leaving New York. The organization announced that they will be putting its building at 241 Water Street, near South Street Seaport, up for sale next week. The ministry will shift all operations to its newly renovated center at Port Newark later this month. Last year we posted about the Floating Chapels of the Seamen’s Church Institute.
The once busy piers on the Hudson River are either gone or converted to parks where children and families play. The East River docks are a mix of museum and shopping mall. No ships have called on Manhattan in decades and the Brooklyn piers are largely quiet as well. There are no sailors left in Manhattan so the Church is shifting its operations to focus on where the sailors are.
Seamen’s Institute to Sell Its Building and Leave Manhattan
“We’re actually following exactly what the maritime industry has done,” said the Rev. David Rider, executive director of the institute. “It used to all be very much lodged in Manhattan, from the various shipping companies and bars and whatever else. But that’s all gone. The old guys still cry in their beer about it, but those days are over.”
The institute’s 33,168-square-foot building was designed by James Polshek and built in 1991, using the brick facade of an 18th-century ship chandlery. It provided free legal aid, Internet and phone access, a chapel and maritime training. The building’s six stories have a total of about 4,500 feet of terraces with views of the East River.
But tightened port security after 9/11, a much greater reliance on the Internet and fewer hours on shore for sailors have chipped away at what, 20 years ago, was a crowded hub for seamen from Argentina to Yemen.
These days, visiting sailors are far more likely to go ashore at Port Newark, while the institute’s training and computerized shipping simulators, once in New York, have moved to Kentucky and Houston.
“The punch line is containerization made it possible to move a box in a matter of minutes,” said Mr. Rider, who said the time a ship stays in port had shrunk to 18 hours from five days. “So, these days, the seafarers coming in to see the world, they may not even get off the ship.”