BATTERY PARK


The Tip of the Isle of Manhattan 

Birthplace of America and New York City 

New York Harbor at Battery Park 

Take the Staten Island Ferry

Pick Up a Ferry to the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island



BATTERY PARK is at the southern tip of the Isle of Manhattan at New York Harbor, one of the most beautiful and natural harbors in the world.   For those old enough to remember Naked City, an early TV show about NYC, its opening line was: "There are over eight million stories in the Naked City. This is one of them."  Yes, over eight million people (actually 8.3 million according to the latest US Census) live on a tiny island 13 miles (21.5 kilometers) long and 2.3 miles (3.7 kilometers) wide at its widest point.  And, as the Stephen Sondheim song from the musical, Company, goes:  "Another Hundred People Just Got Off of the Train."  NO WONDER PEOPLE THINK NEW YORKERS ARE CRAZY!


New York Bay is an estuary (an inlet where a river’s current meet an ocean) where the Hudson River, once known as the North River, meets the East River, moves into the Narrows, a tidal strait between Brooklyn and Staten Island and finally into the Atlantic Ocean.  The port of New York Harbor is one of the largest and most natural in the world (with little ice and fog) and the city's strategic position at his harbor has played a large role in turning New York City into the metropolis it is today.  The construction of the Erie Canal, which opened on October 26, 1825, had a great impact on the growth and prosperity of the City and made New York one of the most important and busiest ports in the country.  DEWITT CLINTON, both a former NYC Mayor and New York State Governor, was a major advocate for the construction of the Erie Canal and those opposing its construction referred to the canal as "Clinton's ditch."


When New York City was the nation's capital, President George Washington enjoyed walks along the Battery or rode in his carriage on the downtown cobblestoned streets.  Battery Park was a favorite spot of the poet Walt Whitman, and novelist Herman Melville, who worked as the Deputy Customs Office inspector of cargoes from 1866 - 1885. Melville mentions the Battery in the first chapter of MOBY DICK in his description of Manhattan:

"There now is your insular city of the Manhattoes, belted round by wharves as Indian isles by coral reefs -- commerce surrounds it with her surf. Right and left, the streets take you waterward. Its extreme down-town is the battery, where that noble mole is washed by waves, and cooled by breezes, which few hour previous were out of sight of land. Look at the crowds of watergazers there."

ROBERT FULTON lived nearby at One State Street.  Fulton would construct the first steamboat at a Manhattan shipyard, and the North River Steamboat would begin service on the Hudson River on August 17, 1804 as “the first steamboat in America.”  By the year 1814 Fulton's steam ferry service to Brooklyn turned Brooklyn into the "first commuter suburb" in America

Also at Battery Park is CASTLE CLINTON where ferries run to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Castle Clinton was once on land that was a man-made island that was connected by a long bridge to the shore at the harbor here. It was completed in 1811 as a military fortification and was one of 12 forts used to defend New York Harbor during the War of 1812.  After World War I it became a memorial to World War I veterans.  Castle Clinton was named to honor DeWitt Clinton and has been an entertainment center, opera house, an immigrant depot and a popular aquarium.  Not all immigrants entered America through Ellis Island; Castle Clinton was an immigrant depot where over eight million people would enter the country from August 1855 to 1890.  It was restored as a national monument in the 1960’s.  The statues on the right are a memorial to the nation’s Coast Guard. 

The Staten Island Ferry Terminal is also at Battery Park and there is a Skyscraper Museum, “devoted to the study of high-rise building, past, present, and future,” at 39 Battery Park.  The Seamen’s Church Institute of New York and New Jersey, which advocates for the well being of merchant mariners, is on Water Street.Due to its historical significance, the Battery Park neighborhood has been called “the birthplace of New York City” and due to the number of immigrants that passed through here, more accurately, “the birthplace of America.”

Surprisingly, ferry service between Manhattan and Staten Island first began in the year 1713.  Cornelius Vanderbilt would made his millions providing ferryboat transportation and also steamboat and railroad transportation.  Vanderbilt's ferry boats were built in Manhattan at Simonson shipyard on East 12th Street (later the shipyard moved to Greenport, Brooklyn).  At first ferry service was infrequent.  In 1905 the City of New York's Department of Transportation took control of the ferry service.  The ferry trip -- over a 6.2 mile stretch -- is a 25-minute ride.  Passengers today total 60,000 daily and over 20 million per year. 

The City of New York has proposed that New York Harbor become a new designated tourist district, a Harbor District, which would include nine different sites, among them Ellis Island, Governors Island, Battery Park City, the Statue of Liberty, and parts of Brooklyn.  In actuality, the Harbor is one of the most visited places in New York City.  A trip to the City is not complete for most first-time visitors without a visit by ferry boat to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island or a ride on the Staten Island Ferry Boat at night.  In the photo above the cluster of green trees on the left is part of Battery Park.  On the right are the Staten Island Ferry Terminal and the Battery Maritime Building.  In the 1800s', Battery Park was also a place for a Sunday afternoon walk.  A design for a new 40-acre park on Governors Island was announced in December 2007.  The park is to have a two-mile tree-lined promenade and a lush saltwater marsh.  Construction is still going on. 

The view from Battery Park of the Statue of Liberty is amazing.  Across the bay is the state of New Jersey and a view of Jersey City and of the Colgate building and Colgate Clock, the largest in the world, built in 1924, with a design inspired by a bar of Colgate's Octagon Soap, which is a no longer made. The surface of the clock is 1,963.5 square feet and 50 feet in diameter. The minute hand is 25 feet, 10 inches long; the hour hand is 20 feet long.

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