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NY Post, October 23, 2016

How an FDNY boat that rescued 9/11 survivors lives on

Edward Taylor is no stranger to boats. The restaurateur started out as a fisherman, selling clams to NYC eateries. He has made his career on the water, with a wholesale fish business and area restaurants (Purdy’s Farmer & the Fish in North Salem, NY, and Gramercy Farmer & the Fish in Manhattan) that celebrate local seafood.

So this spring, when he heard about an FDNY fireboat up for auction, Taylor and his business partner, Michael Kaphan, were intrigued.

“Next thing you know, we owned a fireboat,” Taylor says of the 129-foot vessel called the John D. McKean, which they acquired for $57,400. He’s quick to clarify: “We own it, but it’s a piece of New York history.”

Commissioned into service in 1954, the boat was active for half a century, assisting seacraft in peril on the water as well as putting out fires on land.

It was there dousing the flames when the Manhattan terminal of the Staten Island Ferry caught fire in 1991. It was there on Sept. 11, 2001, when the John D. McKean shuttled more than 200 people from New York City to safety in Jersey City, NJ. It was there in January 2009, to rescue passengers when US Airways Flight 1549, helmed by Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, made an emergency landing in the Hudson River.

After that illustrious history, the then-56-year-old vessel was decommissioned in 2010. While the fireboat’s past has been in New York City, its future will be a bit further north up the Hudson, in Sleepy Hollow. Taylor will dock the boat next to the site of his newest restaurant, Hudson Farmer & the Fish, which he plans to open in November.

He’s spent the past few months refurbishing the John D. McKean to its former glory — painting, working on engines, changing oil lines and fixing broken pipes. Among the volunteers who have pitched in are retired engineers and pilots, and a firefighter from the Tarrytown Fire Department. They come to the docks in Verplanck, where the boat is now docked before its move to Sleepy Hollow, to give advice and aid.

Sometimes they show up just to admire the old beauty.

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The John D. McKean clears wreckage from US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River. Photo: Chief Buckheit
“When I first saw this boat, I fell in love,” says Taylor. “Nothing is computerized, it’s just old-fashioned gauges and steel and casted pipes. They don’t make things like this anymore.”

He plans to soon open the boat — which was built in Camden, NJ, at a reported cost of $1.4 million — to the public as a sort of museum. It will be in good company; the vessel will be docked just north of the Tarrytown Lighthouse, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The museum will definitely pay tribute to the boat’s namesake, FDNY marine engineer John D. McKean, who died at his post while trying to save the fireboat George B. McClellan during a 1953 steam explosion. McKean’s son and grandson have gone on to follow in his footsteps, joining the FDNY.

When Taylor and Kaphan came to pick up the boat after the auction to take it home via the Hudson, the McKean family met them to take part in the send-off.

“They gave us a nice photo [of McKean] and a lovely letter turning the boat over to us,” says Taylor. “As we left the Navy Yard, we started being escorted by other fireboats. As we passed the Statue of Liberty, they gave us a water salute. We were escorted to city limits at the George Washington Bridge, where the fire-department chief stepped on deck and saluted us and wished us luck.

Written by NY Post - Mackenzie Dawson on October 23, 2016
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