Fireboat McKean arrives at Pier 25 for a summer vacation

It was quite a sight yesterday to see the Fireboat John D. McKean arrive at Pier 25. On one of the most beautiful days of the year, there were bagpipers from the FDNY to welcome it on the pier, and its (her?) high-tech cousin, Three Four Three, which is docked at Marine Company 1 in Hudson River Park on the Gansevoort Peninsula, gave a water display as a welcome.

The scene resembled some sort of fireboat mating ritual (which is weird now that I already said they were cousins): the Three Forty Three fired up all its water cannons as it sailed down the middle of the river. The McKean then chugged over towards it and did a 180 in front of the boat — and at one point (see photo above) was perfectly lined up in its shadow with the spray as a backdrop. Then the McKean launched its own water cannons — and at one point snuck over so close to Pier 26 that they doused the folks on the end of the pier, much to the pleasure of the rest of us watching from 25.

It was pure spectacle, and a great way to welcome a historic ship to the neighborhood.

The McKean has no home dock — it’s a bit of a vagabond, said the Village resident who saved it from the scrap heap, Edward Taylor. (He also owns Fish, the restaurant that has been on Bleecker for 24 years, and Farmer and the Fish in Westchester). He purchased it at a city auction four years ago and then converted it into a non-profit. (It was built in 1954 in Camden.)

“We didn’t want to see the boat go into the scrapyard,” Taylor said, “and then you fall in love with an old boat like that.” He hoped it could live in Tarrytown permanently, but some neighbors complained so now it’s just dock surfing. His crew is mostly volunteer firefighters.

He says it is in tip-top shape now, and will be docked at Pier 25 through October. In exchange it should be open to the public for tours; when they have that schedule I’ll post it.

John D. McKean the man was a marine engineer for the FDNY serving on the Fireboat George B. McClellan in 1953 when a live steam explosion on board disabled the boat and fatally injured McKean. He stayed at his post despite his injuries, trying to keep the vessel under control. He died five days later.

When the new fireboat was ready the following year, it was christened the John D. McKean by mayor Robert Wagner’s wife in the shipyard and sailed into New York Harbor in the fall of 1954. McKean’s son, grandson and great-grandson have all served in the FDNY.

The boat went on to have some notable moments in service to the city: it helped pull in Sully’s airplane, rescued firefighters in 9/11, and was involved in the Staten Island terminal fire. So it’s just as well Tarrytown was grumpy about receiving her.

“The boat should be in New York — it’s a piece of New York history,” Taylor said. “And in the winter or fall we will go back up the river.”



  1. nice job Edward Taylor and FDNY with Fire Boat John D McKean

  2. Just so you know, it was the FDNY Marine 1 343 that greeted the John D McKean, not the Harvey. The Harvey was docked at the flying pan. I took photos from Hoboken when the 343 came down the river to salute the McKean.

  3. The McKean was actually welcomed by the FDNY 343 which is the new state of the art fireboat that replaced the McKean when it was taken out of service.

  4. Our dear dear late friend Andy Thurman was heavily involved in finding the McKean and the restoration . Why is he not mentioned here? He put his heart and soul into that project and was so very proud of the out come. We are finally in NYC, and will finally get to see her. Albeit with a heavy heart, but proud of our friend and all his efforts. So sorry to see that he was not mentioned in this article. I hope everyone gets to enjoy this piece of history and all the efforts made to restore her by everyone involved.

  5. It would be a huge miss to leave out the fact that the late Andrew Thurman, a member of the Auxiliary Coast Guard was the actual person to find the mcKeen when it went up for auction.
    Andrew gathered a small group together and raised $60,000 to purchase the vessel before it was sold for scraps.
    Andrew built the website for the McKeen and did all the work over the last four years, and leaving his name out of this article is heartbreaking.