Battery Park

View of Battery Park and S. Ferry, during Prohibition Dead Man's Basin here

Battery Park  was a bub of activity, legal and illegal, during Prohibition.  The park is in lower Manhattan where the Hudson and East Rivers empty into Upper New York Bay.

Agencies responsible for enforcement

Three agencies were responsible for enforcing Prohibition  in the city. All three had offices near Battery Park. First, there was Customs located in the historic Customs Building. (Today, it is a Native-American museum.) Second, the Prohibition Bureau. And third, Coast Guard Intelligence. These two had offices in the Customs Building and Intelligence also operated out of the very secure, federal building on Wall Street.

Barge Office

A Barge Office, used by Customs and the Coast Guard, was located next to the  ferry terminal, the same one used today for the Staten Island ferry. Smaller  boats seized with liquor were hauled to the dock here. Larger seized ships were anchored off Liberty (then called Bedloes) Island.

Dead Man’s Basin

Dead Man’s Basin was where seized vessels were auctioned off to the highest bidders. Some of these bidders represented smuggling rings. The new owners were  “dummy” owners. Soon the rum boat or ship set sail for Rum Row, hoping to smuggle once again back to NYC. (Dead Man’s Basin was  probably the small area between the modern Coast Guard building and the ferry terminal, but could also be where  tourist boats leave  today on trips to the Statue of Liberty.)

Pictured below is a  seized ship with  cargo still aboard.  It took months for such a boat to be assigned to Dead Man’s Basin. The liquor was stored or destroyed.  Sometimes the Coast Guard would requisition former rum runners for its own use — to catch rumrunners.

Guardsmen overseeing seized liquor with crowd watching in background behind iron gate.

Guardsmen overseeing seized liquor with crowd watching in background behind iron gate.

The photo below is a  dock building at the westernmost end of Battery Point today. This is  where  water from the Hudson  (also called the North) River meets the  water in New York’s upper harbor or bay. This building may be  the original 19th century Customs building where Customs barges departed, perhaps even as late as during the 1920s?

[For more, see Smugglers, Bootleggers, and Scofflaws: Prohibition and New York City (SUNY Pres 2013). The book, less than 200 pages, is scholarly with extensive footnotes, primary documents, bibliography, and index as well as text and photographs.]

NYC first pier on Hudson River