By Ben Fractenberg and Julie Shapiro
SOUTH STREET SEAPORT — The Seaport Museum is looking to sell one of its historic schooners, sources said.
The 117-year-old Lettie G. Howard has been part of the museum since 1968, but sources say the museum is now trying to unload it, possibly to address budget concerns.
"First I heard rumors she was being sold, and then I was told she was being sold," said a Seaport source with knowledge of the situation.
The 125-foot fishing schooner sailed the Atlantic and Gulf coasts from the 1890s to the 1960s and is similar to the types of boats that once served the Fulton Fish Market, according to the museum’s website.
Under the museum’s stewardship, the Lettie G. Howard became a national historic landmark in 1988 and was restored to its original appearance between 1991 and 1993. The boat made frequent educational voyages until 2008, when the museum stopped working with the New York Harbor School to do programs on the boat, sources said. Since then, the boat has stayed at Pier 16 in the Seaport.
"That’s what shut down the boat," said a former employee of the museum, who asked to remain anonymous. "The boat has been docked. They started taking a look at getting rid of it."
The Seaport source was told the boat was becoming too expensive for the museum to maintain.
"They’re very eager to get rid of it," the source said. "They don’t see it as a cultural institution. They see it as business."
Captain Tomy Seda, 35, who used to volunteer on the ship, has also heard rumors of a sale. He said that when he recently tried to sell his own schooner, several potential buyers said they had also looked into buying the Lettie G. Howard as well.
"It’s disappointing they couldn’t run her," Seda said. "There has to be some way of utilizing her — even if you opened her up to deck tours. Do something with her."
A spokesman for the museum said only, "The status of these ships has not changed."
Formerly known as the South Street Seaport Museum, the institution recently rebranded itself as the Seaport Museum New York.
The museum was on the verge of bankruptcy in 2007 but sought to rebound by bringing in new exhibits and programs to its waterfront space over the past several years.
In 2008, the museum announced plans to sell the Peking, a merchant ship that needed millions of dollars of work. At that time, Mary Pelzer, executive director of the museum, said the museum was also considering selling the Ambrose, Helen McAllister and Marion M., but that the Lettie G. Howard and several other boats were safe.
None of the boats have been sold since then, according to a museum board member.