High Hopes for Queen Mary Becoming a National Monument

By: 
Catalina Garcia

With the anticipation of the Queen Mary potentially reopening by the end of the year, there is a proposal aloft to let the federal government be its new owner. 

The city is working with a consultant to research and put together a compelling proposal for the Queen Mary to potentially receive a national monument status, like the Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore. The ship is already recognized as a historical landmark, but this does not come with federal funding and operations like the Statue of Liberty.

If the Queen Mary were to receive a national monument status, the ownership will then be passed to the federal government, with them taking over the revenues, repairs and maintenance of the ship.

A national monument is typically approved by an act of Congress or the president. Applying for change will have to be approved by the Harbor Commission and the City Council. In a city staff March 11 memo to councilmembers, it mentions that the National Park Service defines a national monument as “a historic, scenic or scientific interest set aside for preservation.”

Built in 1936, the Queen Mary has been docked in Long Beach and owned by the city since 1967. During the ship’s time here, it has been passed down through a number of failed operators, the most recent being Urban Commons, who eventually gave up the lease in a bankruptcy court.

As a result of the lease ending this past summer, it left the City of Long Beach with control and millions of dollars in repairs. The city has already approved $5.5 million dollars for urgent repairs, but the marine engineering firm, Elliot Bay Design Group, mentioned last April that the ship would immediately need as much as $23 million to be “viable” for the next two years.

The city estimates that the more urgent repairs will take approximately 180-270 days to complete and then the ship can be reopened by the end of this year for special events and hospitality services.

One of the top five critical repairs is the removal of 20 deteriorating lifeboats. The lifeboats are causing stress to the structural integrity of the shell of the ship. Those lifeboats are now sitting in the parking lot waiting to be auctioned off by the city.

Following this, the city is planning to install an emergency power generator, bilge pumps and a system to monitor flooding.

With these applications, negotiations and repairs; the city has another issue to handle that was recommended by city staff – removing the abandoned Scorpion submarine that resides next to the Queen Mary.

The city has sent multiple requests to the owner, Ed Skowron, who has not responded. This had led the city to consider filing a lawsuit against him. The city attorney has issued several written demands to Skowron to remove his submarine, but he has failed to respond and attorneys representing him have not responded to attempts to discuss the matter. The city memo stated that “it has become a top priority in the long-term preservation of the ship.”

The submarine served as a tourist attraction for 20 years. In 2015 it fell into despair and was closed to the public permanently. The city is looking into possible ways to remove the vessel, which includes bringing the vessel onto land for dismantling or potentially towing the submarine for recycling.

Last September the city started negotiations to transfer the control of the ship to the Harbor Commission, which oversees the Port of Long Beach. The negotiations are still ongoing.

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