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The New York Times May 12, 1946


The old familiar junk boats barred from the waters of New York harbor in 1941 for security reasons, will sail no more. A decision handed down yesterday by License Commissioner Benjamin Fielding denied without comment all pending applications for the reissuance of licenses.

The action was taken on the basis of evidence submitted at a hearing last month. Virtually every shipping interest in the harbor, including the United States Customs Office, attended to oppose resumption of junk-boat operation.

Customs authorities linked at least part of the trade directly to smuggling, asserting that more opium was brought into New York in the late Thirties than could possibly have slipped by their inspectors at the docks. Steamship representatives reported wholesale thefts from ships at anchor, including a large consignment of Swiss watches on one occasion and 2,400 cases of scotch on another.

Losses on one ship alone that docked in the harbor after sailing from France were put at a half-million dollars. While it was admitted that some of this looting might have been done before the ship left Europe, it was said that a great deal must have been done in this city's waters.

Both city and Port of New York Authority police admitted the difficulty of policing the harbor against crime. Tow boat operators, in opposing the reissuance of licenses, said the junk boats ignored ordinary rules of navigation as they plied their trade. Coast Guard and Navy authorities said they had no objection to the boats as long as law and order were maintained, but the War Shipping Administration said there was no need for them.

The twenty-eight applicants, most of them represented by Irving B. Bushlow, an attorney, vigorously denied connection with the incidents outlined by the opposition. They asserted that, if there was any wrongdoing in the harbor, it could be laid to other small boats.

Notice of the commissioner's decision reached them by mail yesterday. In the letter there was a simple statement that applications for licenses had been denied, with no recital of the reasons for the action.

At the time the licenses were suspended in October, 1941, there were forty-six junk boats under license. The suspension was ordered by former Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia at the request of the Navy, which said continued operations would provide "a potent source of possible espionage and sabotage inimical to the best interests of our country."

The boats used to meet such craft as tramp ships and purchase items for which they were named---junk.