Gerard Thornton

A childhood watching boats in the Coney Island Channel led to the founding of a tugboat company

Gerard Thornton
Interview Date:


Gerard Thornton's childhood fascination with the maritime industry began when he and his brother Rick would watch shipping traffic from their window in the O'Dwyer Gardens housing project in Coney Island. The Coney Island Channel with its tugs and barges was closest to the beach at Coney Island’s west end and provided a closeup view of the boats plying the channel. Gerard graduated from from SUNY Maritime College and founded a tugboat company called Thornton Marine and Towing, working out of New York Harbor.  He later sold the company but kept one tugboat to use for small jobs. Today we’re recording aboard that tugboat aptly named the Coney Island.

UPDATE: In July 2024 Gerard Thornton launched the Coney Island Steamboat Company based in Sheepshead Bay. Thornton's 50-foot motor yacht takes passengers on history tours of Coney Island's shorefront and Jamaica Bay. More information at: