The S.S. United States — the greatest ocean liner ever built in America, and the fastest ever built anywhere — has been retired for 46 years, waiting for a second act. But its hazy future may just have been clarified a little bit. Mothballed in 1969, moored and growing shabby in Philadelphia since 1996, the ship is now owned by the S.S. United States Conservancy, a nonprofit that has been trying to rehab it into a museum/hotel/tourist attraction/office building, preferably in New York. It’s an inventive and very cool plan, but it’s taken years to line up a permanent site and $200 million or so to pull it off, and all that time a clock has been ticking very loudly, because the ship’s dockage fees in Philly are about $60,000 per month. The Conservancy has more than once announced that it was almost out of cash, and earlier this month said the ship could be evicted and scrapped at the end of October. It would be a rotten thing to see a record-holding ship — and with some qualifications, the S.S. U.S. still does hold the Atlantic speed record, for 63 years and counting — cut up and turned into tin cans, but there is no bigger white elephant than a 1,000-foot luxury liner. There is a lot of love for this old hull, even when it’s covered in rust and peeling paint. A lot of people don’t want to see it go to Alang.
And one of those people, implausibly enough, appears to have come through at the last possible moment. The Brooklyn Paper is reporting that John Quadrozzi, who owns the Red Hook docks, has taken a real interest in the S.S. U.S., and what he is offering would include not just a berth but time: Since he owns the dock, he will stop that ticking timer, allowing the ship to be parked in Red Hook rent-free while everyone figures out the particulars of the development scheme. The local berth is curiously appropriate: Throughout its life, the ship’s home port was the West Side piers, so it’s effectively headed home. This may be the first recorded case of an elderly New Yorker moving back from Philadelphia because the rent is cheaper here.