I love the island and aquatic nature of New York City. The waterways of New York are a great way to experience the city with unobstructed unique vistas. They offer a nice respite from city traffic and crowds and give a real feeling for New York City's historical importance as a strategically located harbor.
Ferries were, at one time, one of the most important methods of getting around New York City, particularly from borough to borough. From the New York Times:
Before the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883 and the opening of the first trans-Hudson railroad tunnels in the early 1900's, ferries were a huge business, crowding the rivers like cars on rush-hour highways. By 1904, according to Brian J. Cudahy, the author of ''Over and Back: The History of Ferryboats in New York Harbor,'' there were 147 ferryboats carrying 200 million passengers a year.
When Anthony Trollope visited the city in the 1860's, for example, he noted that ferries left from Brooklyn as briskly as every three or four minutes, like the subways that were to replace them in a generation.
But by 1955, with countless trains and the automobile in its ascendancy, the number of ferries had dwindled to 57. By 1975 there were only 9 left, most of them part of the city's aging Staten Island fleet.
Although the idea of ferry travel may be romantic, recent attempts at resurrecting ferry service in New York City have been plagued with problems - reading through past articles about New York Water Taxi, you will find one story after another about service suspensions, inadequate ridership, funding problems, and an aborted start in 1997.
One difficulty with water taxis is that stops are at water's edge and thus, for many travelers, particularly in midtown Manhattan, this means either a long walk or a second method of transportation to get to their destination. In other cases, like the free ferry to Ikea in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and to Wall Street, Dumbo, the Chelsea Piers, or South Street Seaport, the ferry stop is right at the doorstep of the destination.
I do hope that New York Water Taxi survives and that the water taxi services flourish :)
Photo Note: This is the storage area for New York Water Taxi's fleet in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The boats sport the classic yellow checker cab motif. The company, started by Tom Fox and Douglas Durst, offers sight seeing and commuter service. For a map of their service, see here.
During the summer they offer a Hop-on/Hop-off service on weekends, with unlimited travel for a flat daily fee. Private charters are also available. In 2008, the company purchased Circle Line Downtown.