A Red Hook dock owner’s dream of bringing historic luxury passenger liner the S.S. United States to Brooklyn and turning it into a floating office and entertainment complex may be headed for Davy Jones’ Locker if he can’t find the backers to make it happen — and now other property sharks are circling.
The entrepreneur says he is treading water — investors won’t commit until the boat’s owners do, and the boat’s skippers want them on board first
“We’re in a bit of a holding pattern,” said John Quadrozzi Jr., who owns the Gowanus Bay Terminal at the end of Columbia Street. “Without that commitment it’s hard for us to put together the support and the financing that would be necessary to make the vessel work here.”
Quadrozzi has been in talks with the ship’s stewards for years, but the campaign to save and restore the craft — which is racking up bills languishing in a Philadelphia berth — became urgent in October when they sent out an S.O.S. to the world asking for money to help save the iconic vessel from the scrap heap.
The owners ultimately drummed up more than $600,000 in donations — which should keep it afloat well into next year — but the campaign also scored the attention of real-estate moguls nation-wide. Meanwhile, Quadrozzi says his backers lost enthusiasm when they heard the boat was on the brink.
Now the Red Hook concrete tycoon has to compete with other developers who not only have the estimated $50 to $200 million needed to remodel the ship, but can also back up their plans with engineers and contractors, according to a spokesman for the S.S. United States Conservancy.
One of the competitors is just a short trip across the river — a mystery Manhattan developer reportedly has the money, but has not offered up a berth, according to Quadrozzi. Conversely, he has the dock, but is still appealing to donors, developers, investors, and government agencies to carry out his vision and fund the Titanic bill.
Quadrozzi wants to refit the S.S. United States with offices, restaurants, a gym, and a school, but said he has heard the hated Manhattan rival envisions the liner as a swanky hotel. The conservancy would not disclose any details, but did confirm that there is another New York City developer in the mix.
But Brooklyn needn’t wave the white flag just yet — the conservancy said it is still interested in bringing its buoyant piece of history to Red Hook, it just needs more of a commitment to move ahead.
“In order to bring her to Brooklyn, we would also need to have some interest on the part of a developer to redevelop the ship and we are actively looking for someone who would be interested in doing that,” said spokesman Tom Basile.