New York City – Free Travel 2: Staten Island Ferry

Strangely, today one of the Staten Island Ferries crashed, injuring nearly 40 people. It’s the same ferry, the Andrew J. Barbieri, which lost brake power 7 years ago, and crashed into the St. George’s Terminal; this time 11 people were killed and 70 injured

But, all in all, this ferry system has a remarkable record of safety, and I mention this latest news only as a reminder that if we are to live our Life, we must take on some element of risk. Travel encompasses that risk-for-pleasurable-reward scenario, too.

Whenever we travel, we should familiarize ourselves with the safety procedures of the vehicles concerned and understand where the safest parts of the transport is located. We have an obligation to be able to take care of ourselves, as well as to hope to depend on the crew.

Staten Island Ferry

Free views of New York’s spectacular harbor skyline abound and you can admire Liberty holding her torch on high 24/7/365 and see Ellis Island, which greeted and processed millions of America’s newest immigrants, go by. All of this happens as you enjoy a 30 minute voyage on the Staten Island Ferry. What a deal. Check the weekends and holiday schedules.

Guess when ferry service between Manhattan Island and Staten Island started. Nearly 200 years after Italian explorer Giovanni Da Verrazzano sailed to the area in 1524, the first chartered boat service between Staten Island — formerly called Staaten Eylandet by the Dutch — and Manhattan Island was established, in 1713!

That 1700s ferry service was provided by private individuals with small two masted sailboats called periaugers, and passenger transportation between the locations was infrequent and erratic. By 1817 the first steamboat traversed the harbor, providing fast, more reliable service. Three harbor ferries were bought by the U.S. Navy to fight in the civil war: Southfield I, Westfield I, and the Clifton I. None of these ferries ever returned to New York City.

Ferry service expanded as the area witnessed increases in population and commerce, because ferries were the only means of transportation between the two islands. When the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad acquired the service route in 1884, several ferry lines were navigating the 6.2-miles between Lower Manhattan’s Battery Park and an area near St. George’s terminal at Staten Island.

After varying safety records, the City decided to wrest the routes from private companies. In 1905, the City of New York decided to regulate the service and assumed control. Under the jurisdiction of the New York City Department of Transportation, the city implemented up-scale changes, replacing steamboats with large, diesel-powered vessels. Each could carry as many as 6,000 passengers and also provided room to transport automobiles.

The completion of the graceful Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in 1964 also prompted a rapid influx of new residents and industries to Staten Island. Despite the additional land access to the island, the increased number of commuters kept the demand for ferry service steady. By 1990, an average of 70,000 passengers use the orange ferries daily to Manhattan.

After the 9/11 attack at the World Trade Center, the Staten Island Ferry transported tens of thousands of people out of lower Manhattan to safety on Staten Island. The captains docked the ferries under zero visibility as the smoke and debris filled the sky. The following days passengers were not allowed on the ferries because the fleet was being used to transport emergency personnel and equipment to and from lower Manhattan. In addition, the ferries were also being used to transport military personnel, tanks and equipment to Governors Island and lower Manhattan.

The city eliminated the 50-cent roundtrip ferry fare, on July 4, 1997, on the nine vessels in the city’s fleet. Today, no car transport is permitted. The ticket office is at Battery Park in Manhattan’s southern-most tip, as the Whitehall Terminus. It one of the world’s greatest, and shortest, voyages!

Make sure that you take the time while in the vicinity of the Manhattan terminal, to go to the Museum of the American Indian, a section of the world famous Smithsonian Institution, and the marvelous museum is also FREE! Find the collection at 1 Bowling Green, in the famous Alexander Hamilton US Customs Building. You have a chance to experience a free day in New York City. Just grab some food for a picnic in the park, and you’re in for a fabulous day.

New York City – Museum of the American Indian

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