SS United States Could Move to Brooklyn in Months

The SS United States, docked in South Philadelphia since 1996, could be moving soon.

SS United States. Photo | Jeff Fusco

SS United States. Photo | Jeff Fusco

Lost your artsy friends to Brooklyn sometime recently? It could get worse: The SS United States may move to Brooklyn in a matter of months!

A bit of backstory: The United States was built in 1952 as a luxury ocean-liner that would break the transatlantic speed record. It was successful. The ship still holds Blue Riband for westbound transatlantic trips (as well as the eastbound record). Unfortunately for the United States, transatlantic air service for passengers began in 1958; the ship made its last run across the Atlantic in 1969.

Since 1996, it’s been sitting at a South Philly dock — near the South Philly IKEA, as many writers have noted — while everyone figures out what to do with this historic ship. The SS United States Conservancy — who has noted for years that the ship’s time is limited without a restoration — is attempting to save the ship from the scrap heap.

And now it might move to Brooklyn.

A report in the New York Times on the ship notes the Conservancy, which owns the ship, is in deep discussions about the future of the 990-foot-long ocean liner. The ship has 500,000 square feet of service. It would take more than $1 billion to convert the ship into a modern-day cruise liner; the Conservancy believes it would take $170 million to $300 million to convert it into spaces for businesses and retail uses.

And, well, it’s not going to stay in Philadelphia. The Conservancy looked at many sites, but New York seems to be the most sensible one. A person “optimistic” about the chances of a deal say the move to Brooklyn could be OKed “within four to six months.”

Meanwhile, a group led by Joe Henwood wants to move the ship to the Chester waterfront. Henwood says his group’s plan — which has 6 to 10 “very, very serious” investors — would cost $300 to $400 million and would provide an economic boost for the city. (To note: People also said this about the soccer stadium and the casino.) Henwood’s plan would make the ship a hotel for the casino, among other uses. The Times reports his group’s plan is to “wait until the conservancy’s redevelopment plans failed, then he would consider buying the ship from a scrap yard before it was cut up.”

Without a redevelopment deal, the Conservancy says the ship will be scrapped in months. It costs $60,000 a month to keep the ship docked in Philadelphia.

[New York Times]