Discovering the Urban Brooklyn Waterfront

Peeping through the windows on the Mary A. Whalen

Housed on the historic ship, Mary A. Whalen, PortSide New York’s mission is to serve as a living lab to create better urban waterways and to invite students and curious minds to discover maritime New York. With the borough’s long shoreline, Brooklyn’s history is characterized by a strong connection to the busiest harbor in the world, with Red Hook continuing to have a maritime importance as the home to the 200,000 square feet Brooklyn Cruise Terminal and of course, the Mary A. Whalen.

PortSide New York was started by Carolina Salguero, a Brooklyn waterfront enthusiast since 1997. Originally an accredited documentary photographer, Salguero lived for years aboard the world’s only oil tanker that works as a cultural center, but has moved ashore since. The tanker’s only resident today is the honorary ship cat Chiclet, beloved by young ship goers. The ship’s programming currently includes TankerTours – sharing the 79 years of Mary A. Whalen history, and TankerTime – for those wishing to enjoy sunsets aboard.

Photo Credit: Gregory S. Jones (
Photo taken during 2016 Open House New York.

Due to space restrictions at the Atlantic Basin and a long legal process to receive funding for Hurricane Sandy relief, the tanker has had to scale back its educational programming due to space limitations. However, despite the slowdown of new projects and community programs, Salguero has continued working on the established WaterStories, featuring important topics and discussions pushing for New York City’s revitalization of the waterfront, which began in the 80s. WaterStories highlights the past and present importance of the Brooklyn waterfront and the city’s harbor with an in-depth onboard museum, including deep dives into the industrial history of Red Hook, the local Norwegian-American history and Brooklyn’s Development throughout the decades.

Salguero is welcoming curious minds and maritime enthusiasts to attend upcoming events or stop by to learn about the city’s waterfront, the tanker’s long history and to kick up their feet as they enjoy the view of the Manhattan skyline from the hammock on deck as Chiclet meows for cuddles.