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Hook amused by submarine stunt

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Marine mischief agrees with Red Hook.

A homemade submarine’s red-alert encounter with the Queen Mary 2 was a cause for celebration this week, with residents cheering the stunt and even offering to help cover legal bills for the sub’s maker — a Carroll Gardens artist who was apprehended by a flotilla of federal and city security agents after attempting to shoot a video of himself against the gargantuan white belly of the Red Hook–berthed cruise ship for an upcoming gallery show.

“I was tremendously impressed,” said Zeph Courtney, who began celebrating submarine maker and artist Phillip “Duke” Riley’s feat even before it occurred. “He told us he couldn’t tell us too much because of security stuff,” Courtney said.

It turned out Riley had every reason to be worried about “security stuff.” The artist had not notified the police or Coast Guard before launching his submarine — a plywood and fiberglass replica of America’s first, an oak, egg-shaped Revolutionary-War-era vessel known as the “Turtle.” But when the eight-foot sub veered into the security zone of the Cunard luxury liner, they noticed — and Riley, who managed to bob within 200 feet of the cruise ship’s bow, ended his waterborne performance in custody, a team of federal and local cops surrounding him.

On Friday and Saturday, as TV newscasters and the daily tabloids ridiculed the “sub standard” stunt as the work of “stooges,” Red Hook celebrated the bizarre act of what NYPD Police Commissioner called “marine mischief.”

“It was jubilant on Van Brunt Street,” said Chris Curen, who watched the spectacle from a waterfront pier.

“I felt kind of proud to see history being used in such a creative way,” added Josie Hiller, a history student living in Red Hook.

Hiller said that she would contribute cash to cover the artist’s legal fees, if need be.

“It’s free speech,” she said.

Riley, who built his sub in a woodworking studio on Pier 41 in Red Hook, received summonses from the NYPD and the Coast Guard for violating a safety zone, creating a hazardous condition and operating his rudderless sub recklessly. He will appear in court on Aug. 28.

Updated 4:31 pm, July 9, 2018
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