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DV Pilot police & fire

Binghamton Restaurant’s Side Wheeler taking on water, not sinking

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YOU READ IT HERE FIRST : A section of what once was the Binghamton Restaurant has sunk into the Hudson River mud, but the ferry boat itself isn’t in any apparent danger, the Edgewater fire chief told CLIFFVIEW PILOT this afternoon.

The Binghamton Restaurant: The sidewheeler is at left

Fire Chief Robert Christiansen said the former Side Wheeler Korean restaurant — in the same shopping plaza as a Trader Joe’s and a Muscle Maker Grill — is stuck in the mud.

“It’s still above water, but the water is over the deck,” the chief told CLIFFVIEWPILOT.COM . “It isn’t going anywhere, but we called the owner to let him know.”

“The water is off, the gas is off, the electricity is off,” he said. “There’s really no danger to anyone.”

The current owner had talked of reviving the Binghamton, long a Hudson River landmark that operated as a popular restaurant and disco, or the Side Wheeler. But he has had some difficulties with borough inspectors, and the recession pretty much put the kibosh on a revival, at least for now.

The double-ended Binghamton, which shuttled passengers between Barclay Street in Manhattan and Hoboken from 1905 to 1967, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Following in the wake of Robert Fulton’s first steamboat, it may be the last surviving steam ferry built to serve New York Harbor still in the water.

The restaurant itself closed nearly four years ago, following what had once been a heyday of first rock and roll and then disco dancing on weekends, as well as meals on the deck overlooking Manhattan. Opened in 1975, “Binghamton’s” could be a great date destination, although there were also plenty of pickups in the nightclub.

Some may remember the brutal murder of its onetime owner, former New Jersey Assembly Speaker Nelson Gross, whose body was found at the foot of the Palisades in upper Manhattan after a group of thugs — one of whom used to work at the restaurant — abducted him outside the place in 1997.

I was working as a federal justice reporter at the time and had direct access to agents investigating the case. The confessions were difficult to listen to.

Three teenagers snatched Gross in the restaurant’s parking lot, brought him across the river, then had to turn around when he couldn’t get $20,000 immediately wired to him.

They went to an Edgewater bank, where Gross withdrew the money after a long wait filling out paperwork. The teens then forced Gross to drive his BMW back across the George Washington Bridge. Both trips were memorialized on Gross’s EZPass account, which helped the FBI nail down some specifics of its case.

One of the teens told investigators that Gross didn’t try to escape or draw attention because they kept telling him they’d let him go. Once they got to the other side, however, two of the low-lifes forced Gross to climb over a stone wall at 184th Street and clamber down the steep slope toward the river, an agent told me.

When they reached their destination, the two had Gross sit down. One of them then smashed him in the back of the head with a rock.

“He hit him really hard,” the agent told me, “but he was still moaning.”

The other teen then pulled out a knife and finished the job, he said.

It was easy to find the trio, thanks to the bank surveillance tape and the restaurant’s employee list.

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