New York Cruise Terminal_West Side Manhattan"Even the gigantic liner Queen Mary can safely berth at this huge dock in New York City - constructed by the PWA" -- PWA caption
In its 1936 report entitled “The First 3 Years. PWA,” the PWA remarks that “…probably the most dramatic and spectacular changes effected by PWA are advances in transportation.” Among the the transportation advances listed in the report are water-related improvements to wharves, docks, piers, and other harbor improvements…” Such projects were “…built by local government units” with funding from the PWA. The report proudly highlights “…the huge new piers built for New York City to harbor new superliners, such as the Normandie and the Queen Mary..” (“The First 3 Years. PWA” Page 15)
The construction of pier 92 at the foot of West 50th Street to accommodate the enormous superliners was, indeed, a celebrated achievement in the history of New York City’s transportation system. Pier 92 was referred to at the time as one of the North River Piers. Three of these piers, 88, 90, and 92, were completed with funds from the PWA in time to harbor the Queen Mary on its maiden voyage from Southampton Cherbourg on England’s southern coast, to New York City (New York Times). At the time, the Queen Mary was one of the largest, and fastest oceanliners in the world.
The new piers boasted the most up-to-date facilities at the time:
“Elevators will take the baggage to the upper levels of the pier, where electric mules will transport it aboard ship. Specially built elevators also will carry passengers’ automobiles to positions for quick loading.
Fireproof materials will be used throughout. Heated spacious quarters for visitors will be provided. Among the modern features of the pier will be watchmen’s compartments at the tip of the pier shed and an incinerator plant, which will be used in disposing of garbage which may accumulate aboard ships at the pier. (New York Times)
Despite the fanfare, the PWA report notes that
“…this work and hundreds of other undertakings of various departments of the Federal Government are not considered an integral part of the Public Works Administration program, although the funds were allotted by PWA. Every executive department of the Federal Government has shared in these funds, completing many undertakings which had been abandoned because of lack of appropriations and establishing highly necessary new services to the people. For all these various Federal projects, approximately $1,500,000,000 of the funds originally appropriated for the Public Works Administration were expended” (“The First 3 Years. PWA,” page 17).
Today these piers are part of New York’s Passenger Ship Terminal, or “Luxury Liner Row” (Chelsea Piers, New York).
National Archives and Records Administration, Negative P-282 National Archives and Records Administration, Negative P-991 "The First 3 Years. PWA.", last accessed October 2015 "Queen Mary's Pier to be Ready June 1," New York Times, April 28, 1936 (L-43), last accessed October 2015 "America Builds: The Record of PWA", last accessed October 2015 "The HIstory of the Chelsea Piers", last accessed October 2015