NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A historic fireboat docked along the Hudson River has been turned into a floating work of art.
The boat is covered in a wild plant design that likely saved lives during World War One. CBS2’s Cindy Hsu went on board Wednesday for a sneak peek.
You can’t miss the John J. Harvey Fireboat, painted in bright red and white, in a new art exhibition co-commissioned by the Public Art Fund and 1418 NOW.
“It was an incredible process from start to finish,” aid Emma Enderby, of the Public Art Fund.
The painting technique is called “dazzle,” developed in WWI to protect thousands of war ships and passenger vessels with a unique camouflage.
“It wasn’t to actually hide but to confuse the people looking at it, to confuse the German U-boats, because it created these very sort of strange patterns and angles that they didn’t quite know what direction the boat was going, or the speed of it or where the hull necessarily was,” Enderby said.
At the height of WWI, about eight ships a day were being sunk.
Artist Tauba Auerbach designed the contemporary dazzle camouflage to be painted on the John J. Harvey. The fireboat was commissioned in 1931, but decommissioned in the 1990s and saved by a group of volunteers who turned it into a floating museum. But it was called back into action during 9/11, when all the water mains were crushed near the World Trade Center.
“This boat and a couple of active duty fireboats pumped water for about 80 hours,” first mate David Grill said. “Hoses were run from the boats to the land companies, and that’s what fed water into the pit when they were trying to put the fires out.”
The exhibition is called Flow Separation, and the hope is that it becomes an eye-catching way to connect New Yorkers to history.
Boat rides will start in mid-July and run through late September. They will last for about 45 minutes to an hour and they’re free. The public is also invited to visit the boat starting this Sunday at Brooklyn Bridge Park. In August, it will move back to the piers along Hudson River Park on the West Side.