NEW YORK (WCBS 880) – The iconic ships at the South Street Seaport Museum in Manhattan might be going away.

WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond: The Fear Is The Museum Might Have To Sell The Ships

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The Peking, the Wavertree, and the Ambrose were once proud symbols of New York’s nautical history and big tourist attractions.

Now, Roland Lewis, president of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, said they’re “floating paperweights.”  

The Wavertree was built in 1885; the Ambrose in 1908; and the Peking was launched in 1911.

Lewis says the tall ships are the victims of years of mismanagement and neglect by the museum. There is rotting wood on the ships, along with rust, and corrosion on the hulls.

It’s breaking the heart of Peter Stanford, who founded the museum in 1968.

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“It’s a brutal shock because this was one of the places where a New Yorker could find his or her own stake in history,” he says.

He is among a group of people who, along with Lewis, sent out an SOS.

“It’s as if someone took the MoMA art collection and shipped it to another city. These things belong here. They’re part of what the city’s all about. That’s why the city is here. They need to stay here,” says Lewis.

“There are people within the city that need to come forward and say what we’re going to do to fix it. Think about Obama and GM. We took over that company, us – the United States, and made it work,” he says.

The museum is drowning in debt and the fear is that it will sell the ships to stay afloat.

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The museum is located at 12 Fulton Street, New York, NY 10038.