Sunday

Four Months After the Storm: A Walk from the South Street Seaport to the Staten Island Ferry

This walk from the South Street Seaport and Lower Manhattan, in part, examines the effects of Superstorm Sandy on the area four months later. The 2-mile walk begins on Broadway, continues east to the South Street Seaport area and then through the oldest streets in Lower Manhattan to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal.



Yep, you may as well call it a ghost town. If you've read that the South Street Seaport has been struggling to get back to normal, that would be correct. Many familiar places are still closed - the Bodies exhibit, many restaurants, and several businesses. (For comparison, read the post on this website, Views from the Porthole: A Walk to the South Street Seaport, from September 16, 2012.)

The main thoroughfare of the South Street Seaport at the end of Fulton Street near Water Street.

The Fulton Market building recently housed the Bodies exhibition.

Schermerhorn Row. Businesses are still shuttered four months after the storm.
The South Street Seaport Museum on the far right has reopened.

As some comfort, a few places are back in operation including the South Street Seaport Museum and Pier 17. A favorite restaurant and bar, Fresh Salt, is open. My favorite repurposed pier - Pier 15 on the East River Esplanade - is accessible, too.

The restaurant and bar, Fresh Salt (146 Beekman St.), is a favorite with locals. It is open.

Pier 15 is open.
The pier is just south of Pier 17 on the other side of the ships.

In recent years, the South Street Seaport area has been a kind of mixed bag. For some time, it looked as if Pier 17 and the surrounding area had become a sort of nautical-themed mall, succumbing to an unfortunate excess of commercial tourism. In most recent months - before the storm - the area kind of got cool again. The New Amsterdam Market brought people down to the seaport to enjoy locally-made foods, and artistic entrepreneurs opened up businesses in nearby stalls. Several innovative restaurants gave it a go in this historic area.

The red ship is the Ambrose, a lighthouse ship.

The storm in late October 2012 left a giant mess, forcing businesses to close and rebuild. Many owners are still struggling to reopen their establishments. According to a recent story by WNYC, "South Street Seaport Businesses Struggle Post-Sandy," Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is quoted as saying, "They are having trouble negotiating leases with some of the landlords. They are facing trouble getting the kind of grants they need to stay open." So, if they can't acquire affordable leases, they will have to leave the area. While not being able to afford a decent rent may be the story of our city in general, it would be hard to watch the Seaport's recent rejuvenation end so quickly.

Through the weathered vessel, a view of the bridges and Brooklyn. 

Some of the downturn may be seasonal in nature, and activity will pick up again in the coming warmer months. What's happened in the Seaport is mirrored in many other waterfront areas across the five boroughs. Beach communities such as Coney Island and the Rockaways are indeed dependent on summer visitors and anxious to complete preparations for the season.

Still, you have to wonder about the future. The waters are rising.

A bird's eye view of the East River Promenade.

While we wade through this prolonged shock to the metropolis, we should learn how to better appreciate the past and present of New York City by taking a good look at it - in person and on foot. What can and should continue to inspire the contemporary visitor to the city is the extraordinary landscape at the edge of river, harbor, and sky.


View A Walk from the South Street Seaport to the Staten Island Ferry in a larger map

This walk to the Seaport continues inland through some curious streets and small parks, evoking an older New York - compressed and weathered, full of texture. Just happening upon Stone Street is always fun, because it's hard to nail down exactly where it's located. One summer night, a friend and I were knocking around mostly empty streets downtown when we came upon the rowdy outdoor tavern scene on Stone Street. In the summertime, the street is lined with picnic tables filled with downtown workers drinking beer and eating nachos. Anyway, I compared the apparition to Brigadoon, the mythical Scottish town that appears only one day every 100 years.

Stone Street

From Stone Street, the Staten Island Ferry Terminal is not too far away. On this particular chilly Saturday afternoon, with intermittent light flurries, a cotton candy vendor stood at the entrance. On a gray day, he seemed otherworldly, an anachronism. Perhaps, he represented a sign. "Hope springs eternal?," I asked myself.



Or just spring?

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from Saturday, March 2, 2013.
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