By Ernie Fritz

You’ve probably seen it driving down the Henry Hudson Parkway, or on a visit to uptown Fairway Market, a large, Navy-sized ship docked alongside a floating dock right off of the West Harlem Piers Park at 125th street.

Welcome to IX- 514, the “Baylander,” a 133-foot long, former US Navy freight and equipment lander (YFU -79) that served in Da Nang, Vietnam, and then was later converted to a US Navy Helicopter Landing Trainer (HLT) and put in service in Pensacola, Florida. The ship was decommissioned in 2011 and put up for sale. In 2012, after an auction and resale, it ended up in the hands of Al Trenk, the owner of Pegasus Air — the same company that operates the 30th street NYC heliport — and he had her moved to New York City. Perhaps it was the helicopter landing ability of the craft that first attracted Mr. Trenk to the vessel.

YFU-79 loading M-60 tanks at Dong Ha, Vietnam, November 1969
A tank rolls off the YFU-79 in Vietnam. Photo courtesy of Tom Lanagan, who was a crewman on the ship.

Since then, the vessel has been docked in various locations along the NYC waterfront, first at Pier 5 of Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 25 at the Fulton Ferry Landing, the Brooklyn Navy Yard and then finally in the summer of 2016, under a month-to-month docking arrangement with DOCK NYC, at it’s current location along the Hudson River. Ownership was transferred to the Trenk Family Foundation.

“The idea was to make it some sort of cafe” said Scott Koen, the port captain to the vessel, “but you need to talk to the community and the foundation is in the process of doing that now.” In fact, a Community Board 9 hearing is set for this coming week, while other meetings have already taken place with the West Harlem Development Corporation.

Scott Koen on board the Baylander.

According to a presentation prepared by the foundation, the ship would serve as the “Baylander Café – a restaurant from Michael Trenk,” (who also owns Prohibition on Columbus Avenue as well as three Lucky Famous Burgers in NYC.) and that “The Baylander will become a Smorgasburg (sic) of specialty prepared foods and beverages that will be enjoyed on picnic tables designed with a military theme.”

The presentation goes on to explain that the “Baylander Café’s team will employ locally and will generate close to 50 jobs as well as offering training and mentor programs to local students.”

A Navy photo of the ship in the water.

Additionally, the vessel will serve as a community resource by offering free tours, a classroom and meeting space for “waterfront geared programming,” and also being available as a community space for use as “an ideal facility for Senior or Youth Fitness Programming.”

The West Harlem Pier.

Since the vessel’s arrival at the West Harlem Pier, it has already hosted various children groups for educational hands-on training and has participated with the New York Harbor School’s Billion Oyster Project on some of their community school projects. Currently free public tours of the vessel are offered every Saturday and Sunday between 12 and 4 p.m.

Photo by Ernie Fritz except for Vietnam War photo and Navy photo.

HISTORY, NEWS | 15 comments | permalink
    1. aye_aye_captain says:

      Just another guy who wants to dock his boat for free on prime NYC waterfront so he can make a buck.

      • EricaC says:

        Most people who start businesses do it in order to make a buck.

        • aye_aye_captain says:

          True EricaC, but most people don’t go around asking for free rent (or dockage in this case).
          The going rate for docking a boat of this size is at least $4k-$5k a month if they could find anywhere that would take it at all.

    2. Zulu says:

      That would be super cool!

    3. PeteHondo says:

      I, for one, do not want it here. Why should these outsiders clutter up our beautiful river?

      • Cato says:

        “I, for one, do not want it here. Why should these outsiders clutter up our beautiful river?”

        … Said the Lenape Indians opposing the sale of Manahatta Island to Peter Minuit and the Dutch….

      • Not a cranky curmudgeon says:

        What makes you call them “outsiders” and how did it get to be your river? What’s your opinion of the 79th St. Boat Basin???

    4. Sherman says:

      I think it’s pretty cool. I’d love to visit this boat.

    5. StevenCinNYC says:

      Thanks for publishing this! I was wondering what that was. I keep seeing it from the West Side Highway. Sounds like a nice addition to the upper end of the neighborhood.

    6. Ted says:

      Wow, military themed food. Chipped beef on toast. MRE pork and beans. Uhhhh, chipped beef on toast, MRE beef stew.

      Wonder if you get the GI’s for dessert.

    7. Joseph Carson says:

      I am a plank owner of that ship and think it is a wonderful idea for a retired U.S. Navy ship. Good luck, fair winds, and following seas.