In 2001, an overlooked part of Jersey City history faced erasure until the Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy took immediate action.
Several iron moorings (also called cleats or shipties) located on a massive concrete Port Authority of NY & NJ pier that was under demolition at the foot of 15th Street, in Jersey City, seemed to be facing the same fate as the soaring timber shed that stood on the railroad pier for almost one hundred years–until this summer.
The moorings were used to anchor colossal liners, tugboats and ships that once populated the waterfront when Jersey City was a national transportation and industrial hub.
The Landmarks Conservancy reached out to the Jersey City Planning Board, voicing its concern for these rare turn-of-the 20th century maritime objects. The Planning Board immediately contacted the Port Authority, which gave its assurance that the moorings, about 50 in number, would be spared and incorporated into future landscaping.
Additionally, a colossal steel propeller, the lone remnant of a former ship yard, had disappeared from a piece of land that had recently been cleared to make way for a high school athletic field. The propeller, with a span of about 15 feet, had been scooped away almost as soon as the Landmarks Conservancy had become aware of it and taken photographs. Again, the Planning Board was contacted, which was able to locate the propeller. Apparently, a city official recognized its historical value and had it placed aside in an undisclosed location. The Planning Board then informed us that the propeller would be positioned in a future Newport waterfront park as a reminder of Jersey City’s maritime history. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned.
Mack-Cali Corporation, which the developer of the Harborside Financial Center’s north and south piers with fancy hotels and condomiums, agreed to preserve the piers’ iron moorings as well.
The Landmarks Conservancy sent letters to the Planning Office; the Housing, Economic Development & Commerce office; and the office of then Mayor Glenn Cunningham, expressing deep concern for the moorings, some of which had been tossed aside and damaged by construction crews at the foot of Columbus Drive where the former Pennsylvania Railroad Depot had once stood.
The letters were extremely effective: Mack-Cali contacted the Landmarks Conservancy on Thursday, August 23rd, 2001, with the good news that the moorings would be incorporated into the new development’s landscaping.