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New York's 'Sea Cruise'—the Staten Island Ferry


It's an old New York dating joke..."he took me on a cruise" Staten Island and back on what was then a 5c ferry and now is free to ride.

Boarding the boat with the crowd. This ferry can take 4500 passengers and 40 cars; others carry 6000 and no cars.


Our ferry appears in films old and new; it's one of the best tourism attractions in New York (hey, free, and with great views of the city and the Statue of Liberty) and it's also a vital link in the transit system, bringing thousands of Staten Island commuters to Lower Manhattan. No surprise: many of those who commute that way prefer Wall Street jobs only blocks from the pier.

DSC00919Once we leave the Whitehall ferry terminal in the top picture, the first big attraction is the Manhattan skyline, including new 1 World Trade Center 

Like most New Yorkers, I don't ride the ferry often; my visits to Staten Island usually use the Verrazano Bridge built in the 1960s. But one recent morning, with time to kill, I took the boat and enjoyed the sights.

DSC00918The big surprise is how much the New Jersey skyline has grown. That's the Hoboken rail terminal at bottom, recently in the news.

It was a bright morning on shore, but as you'll see, it remained hazy over the water for most of the ride. So, with Frankie Ford's classic song in mind, let me take you on a sea cruise...

As we cross the harbor on our 6-mile voyage there are a lot of less familiar sights as well. First, Governors' Island, for nearly 300 years a military and then Coast Guard base, now being developed as parks, schools and more. It has its own ferry to Manhattan.DSC00915DSC00925

The Statue of Liberty, and the boats that serve it are along the route. Many shots need telephoto, but the Ferry does pass close enough for snapshots, too. Some of us have always wondered whether it was worth going TO the statue, when the best view is from a distance...


We also get a good look at Ellis Island and the immigration museum, but that's one you really do have to go ashore to appreciate.


Staten Island is an oddity in New York history. For reasons that go back to 17th century politics in England, the island is part of New York, even though only a narrow channel, the Kill van Kull, separates it from New Jersey, while the mighty New York Harbor separates it from New York. And it's a busy harbor, one of the busiest in the world, in both states.



The Bayonne Bridge is one of Staten Island's connections to New Jersey: three road bridges and a rail bridge. Only the ferry and the Verrazano Bridge, looming in the fog, connects to New York.


But now we're arriving at St. George, Staten Island, where more ferries are waiting their turns. The Guy V. Monlinari, at right is a 4500-passenger boat like the one we're on; the S.I. Newhouse, at left, looks smaller but holds 6000 people and no cars or trucks.


Inside the terminal, passengers wait for the next boat. The ride is free, but Coast Guard rules require everyone get off and go through the terminal to reboard. That's so they can be counted and not overload the boat, for those of you New Yorkers who always wondered why...


On the way back, heading toward hazy Manhattan...


And some more working boats and barges...DSC01016DSC01018DSC01019

And finally, our mirror image, passing us on its way to St. George.


You might think you're seeing one of our famous bridges, but actually, you're seeing two! Because of the angle you're actually seeing, at left, the Manhattan tower of the Brooklyn Bridge, and to the right of it, the Manhattan tower of the Manhattan Bridge. At right, Castle Williams, built before the Revolution, is on the tip of Governors' Island, blocking our view of Brooklyn.


Pier A Manhattan, a survivor of the old days. Originally used by the dock department and harbor police in the 1880s, it was repeatedly expanded, taken over as a fireboat station, and then nearly demolished in the 1970s. It's landmarked and home to restaurants now. The tower at the end, from 1919, was the first WWI memorial erected in the U.S.


And another survivor. Once slated for demolition, the old home of the Staten Island Ferry has been spiffed up and renovated.


And now it's time to go ashore again in Manhattan. Bon Voyage!


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The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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