Sal Polisi, wood carver of the South St Seaport Museum
Once upon a time, by Pier 16, behind a collection of bollards, cleats and a giant anchor (and underneath the FDR drive,) there were two containers that housed the open studio of a wood carver by the name of Sal Polisi. He was a navy man, served on the USS Ticonderoga (CV-14) , and when he retired, he was one of the anchors of the South Street Seaport Museum. People would wander into his wood shop, and he would talk about the museum, the ships, and the history while he carved. He offered free lessons to anyone interested, and his shelves were full of wood chunks in various stages of becoming whales, fish or mermaids (including one never-finished block hacked at by the author, an abandoned whale-wanna-be.)
One day, a big, strong man walked into Sal’s woodshop. “He didn’t look right, he was looking without seeing, asking without listening…” Sal didn’t have a good feeling. Suddenly the man grabbed a large piece of wood, and walked out. “Hey! come back here!” yelled Sal. The wood piece was solid and very heavy, but the man made off as if it was hollow.
Sal called the police, then followed the man as he walked north of Pier 17, and watched in disbelief as the man threw Sal’s wood into the East River, jumped in, mounted the wood, and began to paddle towards the west anchorage of the Brooklyn Bridge.
This was pre-9/11, there was no harbor police stationed at the spot where the man paddled through. It took a while before the police came. The harbor police eventually appeared in their boat, and they pulled the fellow off the log and hauled him off to —? we do not know where. The shoreside police watched, laughed and got into their cars to leave.
“Hey!” said Sal, “What about my wood? I want that wood back!” The cops shrugged and left.
“I was so mad,” he told me later. “That was a good piece of wood! Black Walnut!”
Sal worked in his wood shop for many years until the current regime was given the public land to develop. They assured him he would not be moved, but moved him they did. His shop was razed, and it did break his heart. Fair winds, Sal. We miss you. USS TICONDEROGA (CV-14)
|Builder:||Newport News Shipbuilding, VA|
|Laid down:||1 February 1943|
|Launched:||7 February 1944|
|Class & type:||Essex-class aircraft carrier|
|Length:||888 feet (271 m) overall|
|Beam:||93 feet (28 m)|
|Draft:||28 feet 7 inches (8.71 m) light|
|Propulsion:||8 × boilers 4 × Westinghouse geared steam turbines 4 × shafts 150,000 shp (110 MW)|
|Speed:||33 knots (61 km/h)|
|Complement:||3448 officers and enlisted|
|Armament:||4 × twin 5 inch (127 mm)/38 caliber guns 4 × single 5 inch (127 mm)/38 caliber guns 8 × quadruple Bofors 40 mm guns 46 × single Oerlikon 20 mm cannons|
|Aircraft carried:||90–100 aircraft|