With the SS United States' historic five-bladed propellers just days away from being scrapped, cruise industry executive Jim Pollin has donated $120,000 to the SS United States Conservancy to save the propeller and support a national campaign to re-purpose America's Flagship.
The donation, as well as a pledge to match an additional $100,000 in other contributions for the ship's upkeep, was announced this morning in front of the once Top Secret 60,000-pound propeller onboard.
Handing over a big check to Conservancy Executive Director Susan Gibbs in front of the 18-foot-wide bronze propeller on the ship's stern, Pollin stressed the SS United States' historic importance and urged others to contribute. "This great ship represents the best of American ingenuity. She's as iconic a symbol as the Washington Monument or Empire State Building, and she must not be destroyed on our watch," he said. "I've stepped up to help, and I hope that my contribution will help generate additional donations and build major momentum for the day when we can finally say we've saved the United States."
Pollin, the son of the late Abe Pollin, former owner of the Washington Wizards, Capitals and Mystics professional sports franchises, and women's health expert, Irene Pollin, answered the Conservancy's national call for a buyer to save the propeller and help prevent the ship's destruction. Jim's passion for ships and the sea was sparked in 1991, when he traveled from New York to Los Angeles aboard the Queen Elizabeth 2. He left a long career in the airline industry to found The Pollin Group, a cruise management company that today serves a wide range of corporate, educational, and other group accounts.
The SS United States, still the transatlantic speed record-holder and icon of mid-twentieth century American engineering, could be sold to a scrapper by summer's end unless additional funds are raised to pay her formidable carrying costs in tandem with an investment deal to re-purpose the ship into a mixed-use destination.
"We hope Jim's contribution will serve as an inspiration to others during this critical time. In so many ways, we've never been closer to ensuring that this great symbol of American innovation and our nation's can-do spirit is saved for future generations," stated Gibbs, whose grandfather William Francis Gibbs designed the vessel. "Jim's generosity will help ensure that this propeller will remain aboard the ship, where it belongs. Now, we must save the rest of the vessel." Four other propellers from the ship are on display in museums in New York and Virginia.
The redeveloped United States would serve as a museum and provide more than 500,000 square feet of space for retail, restaurants, hospitality, open space, cultural and educational opportunities. The Conservancy has been advancing discussions in recent months with a number of real estate developers in New York and has identified several viable locations for the ship in her former home port.
"Our team continues to have encouraging discussions with developers in the New York area, and we've advanced plans for a dynamic shipboard SS United States Center for Design and Discovery," said Gibbs. "However, this good news comes as we are issuing our final SOS for America's Flagship. Without additional support from public officials and private donors, we're only months away from the unthinkable," said Gibbs.
"Destroying our nation's flagship would send the wrong message at home and abroad about how our country views its historical accomplishments, our present-day challenges, and our dreams for the future."