JOHN DERBYSHIRE: New York’s Mayor Adams Takes My Suggestion About Prison Hulks In New York Harbor! (And I’ve Got More…)
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[Adapted from the latest Radio Derb, now available exclusively on]

It’s been two years now since I offered my advice on Radio Derb to the British government about what to do with the thousands of illegal aliens they had acquired, courtesy of people-smugglers shipping them across the English Channel in rubber dinghies. My advice was: hulks.

No, not green-skinned mutants with over-developed musculature. I meant hulks as in prison ships: vessels retired from the Royal Navy, permanently anchored along the banks of the River Thames and at seaports like Plymouth. From the 1770s to the 1850s hulks were used in place of jails. One of my great-great-grandfathers served seven years on the hulks back in the 1840s ”for stealing 3 hen fowls & 20 chickens.”

I’ve referred to hulks a couple of times since then, I see, here and here. But both times in the British context. Last week, however, I saw that my suggestion has been taken up by New York City’s mayor Eric Adams:

Mayor Eric Adams is finalizing a deal with the Norwegian Cruise Line to house migrants on one of its massive cruise ships and dock it at Staten Island’s Homeport, The Post has learned.

Adams wants to lease the luxury liner for at least six months and use it to house and process migrants before they enter the city’s shelter system, a source familiar with the matter said Friday.

[Mayor Adams close to deal for Norwegian Cruise ship to house migrants in NYC waters, by Bernadette Hogan, Valentina Jaramillo and Bruce Golding, NY Post, September 30, 2022]

Mayor Adams doesn’t seem fully to have grasped the hulk concept, though.

A luxury liner? Those 19th-century prison hulks were old, rusty, leaky, smelly ships that were no use for any other purpose. The cabins were even less comfortable than the average prison cell; and they were serving as prison cells, the inmates locked in.

By contrast, the New York Post tells us:

The migrants would be allowed to come and go while staying on the ship.

Perhaps they’ll also be treated to concerts, movies, and dances. Deck games too, perhaps.

That’s not the proper hulk ethos, not at all.

In any case the idea of docking the ship at Staten Island’s Homeport has not met with the approval of Staten Islanders.

I should explain to listeners unfamiliar with the socio-geography of New York City that Staten Island is one of the five boroughs of the city, and it is the one with the smallest density of woke urban gentry liberals.

Staten Islanders are, if not exactly horny-handed sons of toil, definitely more based on average than residents of the other four boroughs. If you ask me to conjure up an image of the average Staten Island homeowner, I think of a cop or firefighter.

Once Eric Adams’ idea of using a luxury cruise ship as a hulk for illegal aliens had been aired, Staten Island Borough President Vito Fossella—and yes, he’s a Republican—stepped up to throw some cold, smelly, New York harbor water on the plan. Edited quote:

How is this becoming a Staten Island problem? This is a federal problem … I am not for this cruise. Let’s avoid cruising for a bruising. What’s next? RVs on the street?

 Staten Island’s congresscritter, U.S. Representative Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, also a Republican, was even more outspoken—downright vituperative, in fact. Edited quote:

This is a ludicrous idea that could only come out of an incompetent administration … Both Biden and Adams refuse to address the root of the problem and, instead, continue to incentivize illegal immigration. Secure our borders, reinstate ”Remain in Mexico” and add judges to hear legitimate asylum cases quickly. Democrats have abdicated their responsibility but when Republicans take the House, we will put an end to this nonsense.

 I wish I could believe that last bit; but what the lady said was well said none the less. Thank you, Ma’am.

Here’s Malliotakis’s own op-ed in the NY Post: It’s time for Mayor Adams to get on board with border security, September 30, 2022.

All that notwithstanding, I can’t suppress a frisson of pride at seeing my suggestion taken up on this side of the Atlantic.

Ah, the power of Radio Derb!

Now about my other suggestions… in my May Diary, I wrote:

We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.
[George Orwell review of Bertrand Russell’s Power: A New Social Analysis, 1938]

Right-o, George.

  • Criminals should be (humanely) locked up in prisons away from law-abiding citizens.

  • Mad people should be (humanely) locked up in asylums away from normal people.

  • Homeless people should not be allowed to camp in public places. If mad, as is commonly the case, they should be locked up in asylums; if sane, they should be given beds in hostels for the purpose; if they refuse, they should be charged with criminal vagrancy and, on conviction, locked up in prisons.

  • Foreigners who enter your country without permission should be (humanely) deported absent any claim of distressful necessity. If such a claim is presented, the foreigner should be (humanely) locked up pending validation of the claim. Accompanying minors should be locked up with basic health care and education. When deportation is not possible (source country unknown or unwilling to accept) and no claim of necessity can be verified, the foreigner should be (humanely) locked up indefinitely, with the option to self-deport at any time; any children should be transferred to adult detention at maturity. [More]

All of this I meant to apply to the United States in general, but it applies with particular force to the City of New York.

John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him.) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. He has had two books published by com: FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle) and FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT II: ESSAYS 2013.

For years he’s been podcasting at Radio Derb, now available at for no charge. His writings are archived at

Readers who wish to donate (tax deductible) funds specifically earmarked for John Derbyshire’s writings at can do so here.


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