Bronx New Deal - Photo #510 - SUNY Maritime College

Most recent update: Fri Jun 12 13:10:10 2015

SUNY Maritime College of the The State University of New York on the Throgs Neck* peninsula, Bronx, NY. Photo by SUNY Maritime College, used by permission. It started as the New York Nautical School in 1874 on a succession of ships moored at various locations in New York City's harbor and waterways. In 1929, it was renamed New York State Merchant Marine Academy, got a new ship, and moved to Brooklyn Navy Yard.

The Throgs Neck peninsula had been home to US Army Fort Schuyler since just before the Civil War. The fort itself is the dark grey pentagon in the photo, constructed 1833-1856; it is directly across the water from Fort Totten in Queens, protecting New York Harbor from any new incursion from the north by the British fleet. When the Army left the fort, it was turned over to New York State at the suggestion of Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt, a great friend of the Navy and the Merchant Marine owing to his fondness for sailing and his experience as Assistant Secretary of the Navy during the first World War.

After a prolonged struggle with Robert Moses over what the land would be used for (Moses wanted parks and playgrounds and in fact had already built a playground there), Roosevelt signed the lease on behalf of the Merchant Marine Academy at the end of December, 1932, one of his last acts as governor. In 1934, plans for construction began with TERA (Roosevelt's New York State Temporary Emergency Relief Administration). After initital surveys and requirements drawn up by TERA surveyors and architects, and some initial clearing of debris and earth-moving, the project was turned over to the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in autumn of 1935.

The "real work" started August 1, 1936, with 1000 workers in three shifts. Less than two years later, on Saturday, May 21, 1938, Fort Schuyler was dedicated as the new home of the New York Merchant Marine Academy. The total cost of reconstruction was $4,250,000 in WPA grants, plus whatever outlays were made by the school from its modest budget. Restoration of the fort in particular was a mammoth undertaking, described here.

About 1950, the college joined the SUNY system and was renamed to SUNY Maritime College. Today the WPA work is seen in the fort, which contains classrooms, library, administration offices, and the Maritime Industry Museum; in the reinforced concrete pier where the training ship (initially the Empire State I, formerly USS Procyon AG-11, a huge ship; see photo, and now the Empire VI) docks when not at sea; in the the now-renovated athletic field; and in machine shops, mess hall, and central heating plant, not to mention general electrification, water supply and drainage, path network, and other infrastructure.

Thanks to Terry Kelly, Director of Communications, SUNY Maritime College, and Joe Williams, former Assistant Library Director/Archivist at the Maritime College (and author of several of the references below) for their assistance. See the following images for current views of the campus and buildings.


*   Throgs Neck is the preferred modern spelling (e.g. in official New York City documents) but Throggs Neck (short for Throggmorton's Neck) was the original spelling. Legend has it we owe the shortened form to Robert Moses, who wanted save space on road signs.