Oyster Bay Historical Society to recognize Waterfront Heroes

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In recognition of New York City’s 520 miles of coastline and Long Island’s 1,600 miles of shoreline, Long Island Traditions and City Lore have partnered for a special program of interpretive exhibits and events honoring 10 Waterfront Heroes and their contributions to the connected waterways of our region.

Waterfront Heroes pays tribute to individuals and organizations who help preserve the region’s working waterfronts, restore historic vessels and other forgotten maritime objects, preserve the occupational culture of our waterways and keep the waterfront accessible so that future generations can learn of New York’s majestic maritime heritage.

The exhibit kicks off with a special opening reception at the Oyster Bay Historical Society on Sept. 15, at 1 p.m. Public programs featuring the honorees will take place on Oct. 6 and 13 at 1 p.m and Nov. 3 at 2 p.m.

The heroes profiled in the exhibit include:

  • Bay House families from the South Shore Bay House Owners Association who work tirelessly to preserve their houses in the Town of Hempstead.
  • Members of the North Oyster Bay Baymen’s Association.
  • Duck hunters and decoy carvers from the South Shore Waterfowlers Association.
  • Samir Faraq, founder of Staten Island’s Museum of Maritime Navigation and Communication and collector of forgotten maritime paraphernalia.
  • Ray Keenan, a fifth-generation member of the Sandy Hook Pilots Association, and other members of the association which shepherds ships to shore in New York waters.
  • David Sharps, founder of the Waterfront Museum on a barge he personally dredged from the Hudson.
  • Conrad Milster, a steam whistle collector from Brooklyn who started a New Year’s Eve steam whistle blowing tradition in Brooklyn.
  • Adam Green, founder of Rocking the Boat, which works with underserved youth to build boats in the Bronx.
  • Naima Rauam, who has spent her life painting the Fulton Fish Market in Lower Manhattan.
  • Seetha Wickramasuriya, a Staten Island nurse from Tangol, Sri Lanka, honored for her bravery during Superstorm Sandy, for saving a bedridden patient, and for the traditional kavi songs and poems she wrote about the hurricane.

“They say that not all heroes wear capes,” says co-curators Nancy Solomon of Long Island Traditions and Steven Zeitlin of City Lore. “Sometimes they wear waders, wool caps, and rubber raincoats, boat shoes, sunglasses, or life jackets. This exhibit pays homage to the unsung champions of New York harbor, the women and men who help to sustain our working waterfronts, restore historic vessels and other objects destined for the junk yards. These working men and women carry on the occupational culture of our waterways so that future generations can learn of New York’s crucial maritime heritage.”

David Sharps, who is featured in the exhibit, says, “It’s hard to meet a tugboat captain. It’s difficult to get on board a pilot ship, or visit a tall ship. It’s important that we continue to advocate for New York’s maritime past to serve as a working part of its present. This exhibition does just that.”

Curated by Long Island Traditions, City Lore, and folklorists Naomi Sturm and Dan Ward, the exhibit celebrates unique folk artists and tradition bearers from Staten Island, New York City’s outer boroughs, and Long Island. The exhibit includes historic and contemporary photographs by noted photographers, including Tom Pich, Martha Cooper, Steve Gravano, Mauricio Bayona of Los Herederos and Mike Busch from Great South Bay Images, along with curated video and audio by folklorists and ethnographers Molly Garfinkel, Nancy Solomon, Steven Zeitlin, Naomi Sturm, and others.

The exhibits’ Waterfront Heroes will tell their stories at a public programs on Sunday, Oct. 6 and 13 at 1 p.m. A staged reading of “Salt Water People” produced by the American Lore Theatre will take place on Sunday, Nov. 3 at 2 p.m.

The Oyster Bay Historical Society is located at 20 Summit St., Oyster Bay. Funding for Waterfront Heroes is provided in part by the New York State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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