Australian mining magnate Clive Palmer isn’t on a solo voyage to launch a replica model of the Titanic: the city’s economic development agency helped him navigate his way into the harbor.
Palmer yesterday unveiled his latest plans to build a meticulous copy of the doomed “unsinkable” vessel, then send it on the route from Southampton to New York that the first Titanic never completed.
He is taking pains to preserve aspects of the original Titanic in the new design, from Turkish baths to a squash court for first-class passengers. But one thing will inevitably be different when the ship sets sail in 2016: the site of the boat’s arrival in New York. Pier 59, where the original Titanic was due to dock, is now a driving range — part of the Chelsea Piers recreation complex.
An email obtained by The New York World reveals city Economic Development Corp. officials last year explored accommodating the second Titanic at Pier 92, which used to be part of the neighboring Manhattan Cruise Terminal at the foot of West 52 Street and is now the site of an event space.
The message, provided to the World as part of a public records request, indicates that Tom Spina, the EDC official in charge of cruise operations, inquired with a state official about enlarging the berth at Pier 92 specifically for the reincarnated Titanic.
That would require dredging — scooping sediment and rock from the riverbed—a process that has the potential to harm marine life.
Dredging in New York Harbor is not entirely out of the ordinary. The natural harbor is only 20 feet deep, but the modern container ships that pass through can extend more than twice as far into the water.
Since 2005, the federal government has overseen a dredging project set to deepen channels in the New York and New Jersey ports. The work has included monitoring of potential effects to endangered marine populations, like green sea turtles and Atlantic sturgeon.
In the email, Andrew Genn, an EDC executive, asked the regional director at the state Department of Environmental Conservation what approval would be necessary to open Pier 92 for the Titanic.
“Berth hasn’t been dredged since whenever,” he wrote in March 2012 — a month before news of Palmer’s scheme went public. EDC, Genn continued, wanted to know “what DEC would require. Is it a brand new permit or can we use permit from Manhattan Cruise Terminal.”
The Economic Development Corp. responded to a New York World inquiry with an emailed statement: ”There are no plans for the boat to dock at Pier 92 and it would be virtually impossible for it to do so.” EDC says it explored reviving Pier 92 for the new Titanic at the request of the company, and identified numerous obstacles to its reuse.
The regional office for the Department of Environmental Conservation did not respond to questions from the World.
A spokesman for Palmer said his company, Blue Star Line, has not yet decided where the ship would dock, and added that he was not aware of any plans to park the Titanic at Pier 92.
The two other piers currently operating as part of the Manhattan Cruise Terminal, numbers 88 and 90, accommodate cruise ships as large as 1,000 feet long and 36 feet deep. Palmer’s model would be just 25 feet deep and 883 feet from stern to stem — three inches longer than the original.