Most recent update:
Fri Jun 12 13:10:10 2015
SUNY Maritime College of the The State University of New York on the
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
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
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;
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
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.
Joseph A., Seeking a Safe Harbor: The Acquisition and Reconstruction of
Fort Schuyler by the New York State Merchant Marine Academy (1927-1938),
Bronx County Historical Society Journal, ISSN 0007-2249, Vol.XLVII, No.1-2,
Spring/Fall 2010, p.17-35. The main source materials for this article are
the Minutes of the Board of Visitors of the New York State Merchant Marine
Academy, 1929-1938, Stephen B. Luce Library Archives, Throggs Neck, NY.
- Williams, Joseph A.,
Four Years Before the Mast: A History of New York's Maritime College,
Fort Schuyler Press (2013)
- Williams, Joseph A.,
Fort Schuyler (on the Maritime College website).
- Williams, Joseph A., Fort
Schuyler, an unpublished chapter from Four Years Before the Mast.
- Hopkins, June, The
New York State Temporary Emergency Relief Administration: October 1, 1931,
The Social Welfare History
- NYC Parks Department
Press release of December 18, 1935.
- Caro, Robert A., The Power Broker - Robert Moses and the Fall of New
York, Vintage Books (1974), pp.305-306
- Tomb, James H, The Saga of Fort Schuyler,
Stephen B. Luce Library Archives, Throggs Neck, NY (1943). Tomb was the
initial commander of the new campus and was active in its construction and
Home Is Begun for Marine School; Reconstruction at Old Fort Schuyler Started
With WPA Funds of $1,752,000, New York Times, 7 December 1935.
Online: Service Ship Photo Archive - TS Empire State (IX-38), formerly
USS Procyon (AG-11) (1921-1931).
- SUNY Maritime
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.