On a Water Taxi, a View of New York’s Ebb and Flow

With the recent spring weather in New York and temperatures warmer than average, residents and visitors alike have been heading to the parks and piers along the shoreline. The visitors have also been boarding the city’s boats for exceptional views of city attractions and the skyline from the water.

Passengers on a New York Water Taxi nearing the Brooklyn Bridge

New York Water Taxi is a business that runs specialty trips for visitors as well as the IKEA Express popular with many locals. Their water taxis are painted yellow and black-and-white checkerboard just like the street version. An all-day access pass allows sightseers to spend the day galavanting around various parts of Midtown, Lower Manhattan, and the Brooklyn waterfront, stepping off and on the taxis when so desired at a sequence of piers.

The taxis depart at staggered times from Pier 79 and W. 39th Street and continue to the World Financial Center, Pier 11 at Wall Street (Slip A), Pier 1 at Brooklyn Bridge Park (DUMBO), and finally the Red Hook Dock at the end of Van Brunt Street. If you go, get an early start to see everything, and try not to miss the last boat back from Red Hook if you have dinner reservations in Manhattan.

Boarding a New York Water Taxi at Pier 79 on the west side near W. 39th Street.

The excursion from the Water Taxi’s dock on Manhattan’s West Side to Red Hook in Brooklyn is entertainingly narrated along the way, beginning with the story of Captain Sully’s 2009 miraculous water landing of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River. The guide pointed out the important role of the sightseeing boats in the rapid response to the near disaster. Additional stories include how Battery Park was built and what gives DUMBO its name.

The Hudson Yard development frames the Empire State Building in the distance.

Residents of the city may know many of these stories told along the way, but even for the know-it-alls the boat trip offers new perspectives on the city’s rapidly changing skyline.

After Hudson Yards, the Chelsea waterfront comes into the picture.

As soon as the taxi heads down the river, the Hudson Yards development comes into view. A feel for the massive scale of the emerging mixed-use West Side project, the largest in the city since Rockefeller Center, can be sensed here from the middle of the river. Eventually, Hudson Yards will look and feel like a mini-skyscraper city planted just west of the old one. Walking the northern section of the High Line can provide a better view close up, but boating at a distance can drown out the incessant sounds of jackhammers.

A visitor takes a snapshot of Lower Manhattan and the Battery Park Promenade.

In addition to Hudson Yards, look landward for continued construction at the WTC site, the South Street Seaport, and work on the Brooklyn piers. Arriving at the waterfront Red Hook neighborhood, you may want to get off the water taxi and wander around the shops, restaurants, galleries, and the Waterfront Museum. Or have a seat and gaze at the statue in the harbor.

Docking at Pier 1, Brooklyn Bridge Park (DUMBO)

Beginning this summer, the new citywide ferry (website) will be stopping in Red Hook, too. And Red Hook will then be a stop on the way south to the Brooklyn Army Terminal and then on to Bay Ridge. And then back to the shores of old Manhattan. A separate city ferry route will link the Brooklyn Army Terminal with Rockaway. The skyline, by then, will grow very small.

A moment in the sun on the Red Hook waterfront, with a red umbrella.

 Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from Saturday, April 8, 2017.

See the New York Water Taxi website for schedules and fares.

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