SURVEYOR'S NOTEBOOK

TBT, Worst Dutch Real Estate Deal Ever

By Rik van Hemmen

Except for the passenger ship terminal above 42nd street, commercial ship operations in Manhattan have pretty much come to an end.

One of the last commercial shipping terminals to be built on Manhattan was Marine and Aviation Pier 40. It was built in 1962 at a cost of $18 million expressly for the use of Holland America Line, which for the previous 73 years had docked at Hoboken. For its time, it was ultra modern and designed to handle passengers and cargo.

Holland America Line signed a 20 year lease at $1.2 million per year, but by 1966 the passenger trade was rapidly declining and cargo trade was containerizing which made Manhattan a terribly unsuitable location. In 1966 Holland America Line merged its cargo business into ACL and they moved to Port Newark in New Jersey, and around the same time the passenger ships moved to the passenger ship terminal.

Whenever my father passed the terminal he would tell me that this move was the worst real estate deal ever made by Dutchmen. Which means that Manhattan is both the location of the best Dutch real estate deal and the worst Dutch real estate deal ever.

Yesterday, late at night, I walked past the terminal, and looked into one of the glass doors that lead into the lobby and saw this mural through the door. I tried to take a picture through the glass, when my friend, Capt. Schade, pulled on the door handle and found the door was open. That seemed like an invitation, so we went in.

On top, it shows the Rotterdam V. My father was on the new construction team for that vessel and today she is a hotel in the city of Rotterdam.

The next vessel down is the Rotterdam IV. My grandfather sailed on this ship as a young engineer.

When I walked out I noticed this mosaic in the floor:

It is a much beloved Holland America Line logo that features the Half Moon and the Nieuw Amsterdam II. My father sailed on the Nieuw Amsterdam II and saved her from being scrapped through an epic reboilering in 1967.

The Pier is in poor shape and may someday not too long from now be scrapped too. I wonder what will happen to the art. It sure is iconic to me and to New York City’s history.

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