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Suffolk threatens to evict 1938 FDNY boat from Greenport dock

Retired chief engineer Henry Wassmer, of Southold, checks

Retired chief engineer Henry Wassmer, of Southold, checks on a spotlight on board the Fire Fighter that is currently docked in Greenport. (Dec. 2, 2013) Credit: Randee Daddona

A 1938 FDNY fire boat docked in Greenport might find itself searching for a new harbor, after Suffolk County threatened to evict the boat from a dock it controls.

In a letter Suffolk sent to Greenport, the county complained that it never gave permission for the 134-foot-long Fire Fighter to use the Railroad Dock.

The county demanded, in a letter sent to the village Oct. 29, that Greenport remove the 600-ton ship or Suffolk would "have no recourse but to pursue all means available to remove the vessel."

The November deadline the county set has passed, and the boat is still at the Railroad Dock, where it was moved in July. The dock is leased by the county and subleased by Greenport.

So instead, a meeting is being scheduled among county officials, the village of Greenport and the office of Legis. Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue).

"No final decision has been taken regarding what action, if any, will be taken regarding the boat at the dock," said Suffolk County attorney Dennis Brown, in an interview Monday.

Charlie Ritchie, president of the Fireboat Firefighter museum, which brought the boat to Greenport in February and received its nonprofit status at the end of October, said he's looking at docks in Long Island City and up the Hudson River as possible new homes.

But, he said, he'd prefer to stay in Greenport.

"In a lot of ways, it's a great spot for the boat," Ritchie said. Organizers have built up a base of volunteers around the boat on the East End, many with maritime experience or ties to the FDNY.

Joe Lemerise, a Cutchogue resident who volunteers on the boat, said going to New York City to volunteer would be difficult. "If it goes up the Hudson, that boat will get lost," Lemerise, 72, said.

Henry Wassmer, 78 of Southold, was chief engineer on the Fire Fighter for 17 years, when he retired from the FDNY in 1991. Now he volunteers fixing up the boat. He admits it is rusting on the outside, but said volunteers are working to polish it up.

"She's lost her glamour looks she had when she was in the department," he said. The boat was designed with a lot of brass fixtures, which firefighters constantly had to polish when it was in service, Wassmer said.

Oyster farmers have expressed concern to Krupski about possible pollution if the boat sinks. Plus, he said, he doesn't want it to crowd out any commercial fishing boats.

"I assume the fire boat will move someplace else," Krupski said. "I assume it'll find a happy home somewhere."

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