U.S. Coast Guard's long history of service in New York

More than a dozen Navy and Coast Guard ships took part in a 30-year tradition this week, parading through New York Harbor for Fleet Week. The nautical display lasts just a few days, but the U.S. Coast Guard patrols the waterways of New York all year long, reports CBS News correspondent Don Dahler. 

"As Frank Sinatra would say, start spreading the news. You are about to become a Coast Guard city," Adm. Paul F. Zukunft said.     
This month, the city was honored as the country's 25th and largest Coast Guard city. The proclamation came from sector New York commander, Capt. Michael Day.

"Without a doubt New York is one of the most patriotic, one most welcoming cities that I've ever been stationed at," said Day, who is in charge of more than 1,000 active duty and reserve guardsmen and women in the city where Alexander Hamilton founded the Coast Guard nearly 240 years ago. 

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Capt. Michael Day

CBS News

"Right here in New York City, right at Federal Hall. George Washington signed it in August 4, 1790. So we've got a lot of history here with the city of New York," Day said. He said it was first started as a "revenue cutter service."

"As the ships were coming in and there were people avoiding paying their taxes, so customs type of duty," Day said.

The history may have been lost on most, but not the creator of "Hamilton," the musical. 

"How does Hamilton, the short-tempered, Protean creator of the Coast Guard, founder of the New York Post, ardently abuse his cab'net post, destroy his reputation?" the character of Aaron Burr raps in the musical.  

"He just says 'creator of the Coast Guard, founder of The New York Post' just like randomly. … If you're not really listening to it, you would not catch it at all," said Michael Luwoye, who plays Alexander Hamilton on Broadway.

The Coast Guard's presence in New York has evolved considerably from the original revenue cutters. The service now oversees everything from maritime security for the U.N. General Assembly and July Fourth celebrations in the summer, to ice breaking missions in the Hudson River in the winter. Not to mention the rescues. 

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CBS News

"The Miracle on the Hudson of course, Superstorm Sandy, 9/11 – Coast Guard played an integral role in a lot of the darkest hours for the city," Day said.

Day lead what's been called America's Dunkirk. As explained in the 2011 documentary short, "Boatlift," 500,000 people were rescued from lower Manhattan after the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001. Day organized an amateur armada of private boats, ferries and tugboats.

"It started actually very small scale. But seeing how efficient it was, the Coast Guard made the call for all available boats and were just inundated with help in getting those people off," Day said.

Day's service was recognized by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who said what Day did "changed to course of history for the better." Day's tour of duty in the city is ending next month. Incoming Capt. Jason Tama will now lead the sector New York into the future.

"How would you define what the Coast Guard's duties are now?" Dahler asked him.

"I think a lot you can trace back to 1790 … and as the port has grown and the population has grown, that mission has become perhaps more dynamic in some ways. But really the roles are fundamentally the same. It's the safety, security and resilience of the harbor," Tama said.