History and historical photographs courtesy of Al Trojanowicz
In 1931 much was added to the New York scene, including John J. Harvey. She is in good company and shares a birthday with notable contemporaries like the Empire State Building and George Washington Bridge. To this day, she is the harbor's fastest big fireboat and remains the senior in longevity.
Hers is a long story, and here we will tell some of it, as well as that of the Fire Department family and City she is such an integral part of.
Two of the most famous transatlantic liners were Normandie and Queen Mary. Remember that Harvey was on station to welcome them both when they came here brand new, and is still here long after they have left. Yes, hers is a Proud History.
Life on the West Side / A West Side Tradition
John J. Harvey has spent her entire service life on the West Side of Manhattan at North River berths (as the lower Hudson is called). Commissioned in 1931 as Engine Co. 57, she was stationed at a unique house along the Battery Park seawall.
In 1938 she was transferred to Engine Co. 86 at Pier 53 at Bloomfield Street, the home of John Harvey’s boat, Willett. In 1959 this Company was redesignated Marine Co. 2. The station closed in 1991 but Harvey continued in regular service a few more years. In 1992, the Fire Department reconsidered the need for a North River fireboat and reopened the Pier 53 station.
It is most appropriate that Harvey is now berthed at Pier 66 Maritime, a stone's throw from where she performed most of her 64 years of service.
FDNY Marine Division
The New York City Fire Department was organized in 1865 as the city grew beyond the ability of the volunteer firemen and their equipment to protect it. Soon after this organization, it was obvious that waterfront fire protection in the form of fireboats would be necessary. Three important factors contributed to make fireboats possible. First, the advances in steam propulsion and pumping technology made building such boats practical; the ability of the paid Fire Department with its municipal budget made them affordable; but most important was the value of waterfront facilities, shipping, and commerce that demanded protection from fire. This was not only a local economic issue, for the nation's, if not the world's, commerce was established in the Port of New York.
As boats were added the organization of the fireboats became the responsibility of the Marine Division, under the command of Chief Officers. Today there are nine firefighting Divisions in FDNY to administer the usual land Engine and Ladder Companies "up the street". Unlike the land units, the Marine Division has responsibilities in addition to the day to day administration and firefighting supervision.