A state-funded ship with a lot of history is normally docked in Connecticut during the summer, but a voyage to Puerto Rico during hurricane season is raising some flags.
The “Amistad Freedom Schooner” recently got a multi-million dollar facelift and one lawmaker says now is not the time for it to be leaving.
State Representative Diana Urban fears the historic ship could be damaged in the Carribean during hurricane season, not to mention, it will miss events in Connecticut in favor of being used for a new television miniseries about pirates.
Most agree the Amistad is a treasure for Connecticut as a lasting symbol of the abolition movement.
But you won’t be able to see the state’s flagship vessel until next summer because now it’s being sued in an upcoming TV series called “Crossbones” that’s filming in Puerto Rico.
Rep. Urban says she questioned the move back in June.
“I feel like I have been jerked around”, says the Democrat who represents North Stonington and Stonington.
Urban says Kip Bergstrom, Deputy Commissioner for the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, made her a promise.
But Bergstrom says it’s a simple misunderstanding and that no promise was made.
“Does that sound a little bit like double-speak to you? Because it sounds like double-speak to me. There was no promise? Whoaa. I said to him, I don’t like the idea that this ship is down there in hurricane season. Who made that decision? What kind of a stupid decision was that to make? And his rejoined was, ‘ohhh representative, don’t worry, we have an MOU that we will have very soon that that ship will not be down there”, said Rep. Urban.
The “MOU” refers to a “memo of understanding” between parties.
“It wasn’t that the story changed or anything else. It was going to be delayed and then it turned out not to be delayed”, said Bergstrom.
Long wharf pier in New Haven is the home port for the Amistad, but the ship is not there.
Representative Urban says that presents not only safety concerns during hurricane season but that it also violates a contract.
“Contractually they are supposed to be in Connecticut through labor day.”
Bergstrom says the DECD found out a month ago that production for the television show would start in September, not later on, as he originally told Urban.
But Urban says he never notified her of the change.
The last she heard from Bergstrom was that the Amistad wouldn’t leave until the winter.
She only found out the truth when she called Amistad’s offices to see if the ship could be used for September’s “Taste of Mystic”.
“Seriously… if you and I had had this conversation, and then the production company changed their mind, wouldn’t it be incumbent upon you to call the legislator and tell her that things had changed?”, asked Urban.
We asked Bergstrom whether he alerted Urban of the change when he found out last month.
“No… maybe we should have done that. I think that would have eliminated some of this misunderstanding”, he said.
Representative Urban says next time she will get any statements made to her in writing.
The Amistad will receive $250,000 for its use in the miniseries and Bergstrom says it is protected by hurricane insurance.