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Traversing Manhattan: An Afternoon Trip to the Battery and Back Again

 

Wherein the vaccinated sightseer from Northern Manhattan travels to the southern end of the island by means of the express bus, the MTA subway, and the NYC ferry, with a little sauntering on foot

In Battery Park, during the first blushes of spring in New York.
View of One World Trade Center

Residents of the far north and far south of Manhattan are the ones most keenly aware that they live on an island. The north end of the borough tapers to a relatively small area of land, bounded by the confluence of the Harlem and Hudson Rivers and the waters of Spuyten Duyvil. The land is hilly and green, with an old growth forest. The Battery sits on the southern end, a land where the geography is defined by the meeting of the East River, the Hudson River, and the vast New York Harbor. Manhattan stretches a little over 13 miles on the long side and just 2.3, more or less, at its width.

On 42nd Street, approaching Grand Central Terminal.

A resident of the hilly northern terrain may sometimes long to see the watery southern end of the island and to gaze out on the harbor, the various boats, and its most famous structure, the Statue of Liberty. As it turns out, it doesn’t take forever to get there. The pandemic has kept many people close to home and away from accustomed jaunts, so the imagined ordeal does not take forever and a day.  

Outside Grand Central Terminal on 42nd Street

With increasing numbers of fellow residents getting vaccinated, engaging in some local sightseeing is now within the realm of possibility. Travel is especially welcome for these who long to see the seas again (links to the poem "Sea Fever" by John Mansfield at the Poetry Foundation).

"The Tomb of the Temporarily Closed Oyster Bar"

This post explains how to traverse the length of Manhattan from north to south and back again during the course of an afternoon, or specifically, from 12:40 pm to 4:50 pm on a weekend afternoon. With this knowledge, a visitor could easily take in the sights of the Met Cloisters in the morning and then enjoy the sights of the Battery a few hours later. 

Outside the Bowling Green Station

For the first leg of the trip, starting north, take the BxM1 express bus (MTA pdf) from the intersection of Broadway and W. 207 to Lexington Ave and 42nd Street. The Bus Time app (there are several good ones out there) showed results for a 12:40 pm departure. The BxM1 express bus, with its northern terminus in the far north of the Bronx at 263rd Street, is indeed a magic bus. After just one more uptown stop at Dyckman and Sherman, the next stop is 96th Street and Lexington Avenue. The bus eventually goes all the way down to 34th Street, but get off near Grand Central Terminal. (Another possibility – go all the way to 34th and take to crosstown bus to the E. 34th ferry dock, and get on a ferry headed for Pier 11/Wall Street.)

Dancing with wild abandon, or just vigorous exercise, in Battery Park

After arriving at Grand Central, have a look around. While the foot traffic may appear slightly more active than in the past few months, the lower dining concourse still looks a bit forlorn, especially with the Oyster Bar temporarily closed.

A Statue Cruise boat is ready to sail to Liberty Island from the Battery.

From Grand Central Terminal, take a 4 or 5 train down to Bowling Green. These days, the visitor can enjoy an early springtime scene there with a hint of blossoms and green lawns. The Battery looked lively on this weekend day. A large group danced with abandon in the fountain area, swaying to inspirational music they could only hear. At the harbor, dozens of people, maybe a hundred or so, were lined up for the Statue Cruises for a trip to Liberty Island.

The busy scene at Pier 11/Wall Street

While the Staten Island Ferry is near, consider strolling up Water Street to the Wall Street/Pier 11. At the pier, purchase a ticket on the NYC Ferry app and wait for a ferry headed north to the E. 34th Street dock on the East River. 

On the NYC Ferry headed to E. 34th Street

The ferry ride is a short but thrilling ride. With the cost the same as a subway ride – currently $2.75 for a one-way adult ticket, the NYC ferry is a more scenic alternative to underground travel. From the vantage point of the upper deck, the sights of the city from the East River - the Brooklyn Bridge, the UN Headquarters, and the rest - can help restore a sense of connection to the city, one that has often been lost during the pandemic. 

Public plaza at 34th Street and 1st Avenue 

The open sky and breezes on a boat can help not only with virus mitigation strategies, but also deliver a sense of freedom. I could amend Andy Warhol’s quote, “My favorite smell is the first smell of spring in New York,” with “My favorite smell is the first smell of spring in New York after the recommended two weeks have passed since the second shot of the Pfizer vaccine.”  

On 34th Street headed west to 3rd Avenue.
You may recognize the Empire State Building in the distance.

Debarking from the ferry on E. 34th Street, walk over to 3rd Avenue and E. 33rd St. and catch an Inwood-bound express bus for the ride back north. If timing is good, the round trip can be accomplished between lunchtime and Happy Hour.

This scenic trip could easily be reversed, suitable for downtown Manhattan residents who long to visit the Met Cloisters again or take a stroll along the great promenade of Fort Tryon Park. 

        “And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,

    And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.” 

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from Saturday, March 27, 2021. 

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