SS United States group raises enough to stay afloat

The SS United States is docked at Pier 82 on the Delaware River, overlooking Columbus Boulevard.

Less than two months after setting a save-it-or-scrap-it deadline for the SS United States, the conservancy that is trying to restore the iconic ocean liner says it has raised $600,000 - money that will prevent the rusted vessel from being junked.

For now.

The donations will buy 10 months for the preservationists to reach a deal with an undisclosed developer to repurpose the ship, which has sat idle at a South Philadelphia pier since 1996.

It costs $60,000 each month to maintain the ship at Pier 82, where it rises over Columbus Boulevard.

A possible destination for the United States is along a pier in Brooklyn, reborn as some combination of office space, condos, and a museum. But officials at the S.S. United States Conservancy, the Washington-based nonprofit that owns the ship, have provided scant details.

The group last year signed nondisclosure agreements with a developer. Those agreements, officials said last month, made fund-raising efforts challenging. In announcing the new donations Tuesday, the conservancy touted "new investor interest in recent weeks" amid renewed momentum.

"This immediate lifeline gives us crucial time to finalize a redevelopment agreement that will secure a long-term sustainable solution for the ship," Susan Gibbs, executive director of the conservancy, said in a statement.

Tax documents from 2013, the most recent that are publicly available, showed a $358,686 deficit for the conservancy. Gifts totaling $5.8 million from philanthropist H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest, owner of The Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News, and Philly.com, enabled the conservancy to buy the ship in 2011 and go forward with rescue plans.

Most of the new money came from three people. One anonymous donor gave $250,000. Richard O'Leary, one of the ship's former deck officers, donated $100,000. And cruise-industry executive Jim Pollin, who contributed $220,000 in 2014, gave an additional $100,000 this time.

The anonymous donor said, in a statement provided by the conservancy, that scrapping the ship "would be like letting the Statue of Liberty be melted down and turned into pennies."

mgelb@philly.com 215-854-2928 @MattGelb