Statue of Liberty, Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal.

New York Harbor and the East River

Walking to work along the East River

I do writing and teaching work for a training company based largely in the Washington D.C. area but running courses in dedicated education centers in several cities, and running on-site courses wherever the clients wants them. On-site courses have gotten me to the U.K., Germany, Canada, Japan, and Hong Kong.

I've written courses for them on Linux server administration, Linux/UNIX security, and cloud computing security, plus some courses they no longer run on Linux networking services and Linux/UNIX troubleshooting and performance analysis. And I also teach some other courses on various cybersecurity topics.

Their New York education center is in #1 New York Plaza, a large building diagonally adjacent to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal at the southern tip of Manhattan. If I'm out there working for them, they put me up in a corporate apartment at Hanover Square, just off Water Street a few blocks north of the course site.

It's time to go to work!

I am leaving the apartment building and passing one of the many carts selling breakfast.

I will cross Water Street on that crosswalk beyond the cart, and continue toward the river.

Breakfast vendor at Water Street and Hanover Place.
Old Slip Park at Water Street and Hanover Place.

Old Slip Park is a tiny park in what used to be a slip for ships. The shoreline of southern Manhattan has been extended over the centuries since it was a Dutch settlement. The old water line was back on Pearl Street, a half-block behind the viewpoint in the above picture.

The waterside end of Old Slip Park now houses the NYPD Museum, covered with scaffolding in this picture.

Here is the NYPD museum as seen on a different trip, once they finished renovation and removed the scaffolding.

Looking to either side of the museum building, below the overpass in the distance, we are seeing the Brooklyn shoreline. We are very close to the East River.

New York Police Department NYPD museum.
Old Slip Park, beside the NYPD Museum, approaching South Street and the East River Drive.

We'll go around the north side of the NYPD Museum and continue to South Street.

South Street is at ground level. The East River Drive, called the FDR Drive further uptown, is nearing the end of its elevated run.

We'll cross South Street and walk under the East River Drive to the East River Bikeway.

Crossing South Street and going under East River Drive.
View north over Pier 11, the Gouverneur Lane ferry terminal and the South Street Seaport to the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge.

We're at the waterfront! We're looking north, over Pier 11, the Gouverneur Lane ferry terminal. I did mention the Dutch background, right? The South Street Seaport is beyond that, and you can see the masts of a couple of restored sailing ships.

Beyond that are the two towers of the Brooklyn Bridge (thick stone towers) and the two towers of the Manhattan Bridge (thinner steel towers, a little lower).

If we were to walk about eight blocks north along the East River Bikeway, we would have this view of the Brooklyn Bridge and, further upriver, the Manhattan Bridge.

Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge.

The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the U.S., opened in 1883. It was the first steel-wire suspension bridge, and with its main span of 486 meters (or 1,596 feet), it was the longest suspension bridge in the world until 1903. At mid-span it has 41 meters (or 135 feet) of clearance, allowing large vessels to pass upstream. Its total length is 1,825 meters (or 5,989 feet).

Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge.

The Manhattan Bridge was completed in 1909. Its main span is 451 meters (or 1,480 feet), and has the same mid-span clearance as the Brooklyn Bridge.

Its total length is 2,089 meters (or 6,855 feet). The towers are 102 meters (or 336 feet) tall. It also carries the B, D, N, and Q subway lines. The Brooklyn Bridge originally had rail lines, but now is just three lanes of traffic in each direction below a wooden pedestrian and bicycle path.

Now back to where we were, just south of Pier 11. Its ferry terminal is extremely busy on weekday mornings, bringing workers to the Financial District. Wall Street is just one short block north of this pier.

Ferries connect from Hoboken, New Jersey; Exchange Place in Jersey City, New Jersey; the Sunset Park area of Brooklyn, and Fort Hancock and Port Monmouth in the Sandy Hook area of New Jersey. Those last ones are making a long run from well outside the Verrazano Narrows opening into New York Harbor.

Pier 11, the Gouverneur Lane ferry terminal, Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, Brooklyn skyline.
Gouverneur Lane ferry terminal, Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, Brooklyn skyline.

A twin-hull ferry backs out to make another run while another ferry continues up the East River behind it, and a third is unloading passengers.

Beyond them is the skyline of central Brooklyn.

Looking further down the East River, we see the Brooklyn waterfront and the end of the Downtown Manhattan Heliport.

View across East River to Brooklyn waterfront, looking over the end of the Downtown Manhattan Heliport.
View across East River to Brooklyn waterfront, looking over the end of the Downtown Manhattan Heliport.

Large cargo ships use the Brooklyn piers between the Brooklyn Heights and Red Hook areas. Cruise ships also tie up there.

I'm not the only person enjoying the view this morning. It's time to continue in this direction, south along the East River Bikeway and past the Downtown Manhattan Heliport.

View across East River to Brooklyn waterfront, looking over the Downtown Manhattan Heliport.
East River Bikeway south to heliport and Staten Island Ferry Terminal.

The building to the left of the light pole is the heliport terminal building.

To its right is the Governors Island ferry terminal.

Here is my destination — #1 New York Plaza, in the building to the left. It has a "step" about 18-19 floors up, giving it a distinctive shape.

#1 New York Plaza, at left.
East River Bikeway, Governors Island Ferry Terminal, Staten Island Ferry Terminal.

The green and yellow building is the terminal for the Governors Island ferry. The white ferry is one making that short run between Manhattan and Governors Island.

This ferry terminal was constructed mostly of cast-iron, and it was completed in 1908. It was restored in 2001-2006. There is free ferry service between here and Governors Island, every hour on Fridays and every half hour on Saturdays and Sundays.

Governors Island Ferry Terminal.

It was restored in 2001-2006, but it seems like the restoration is not quite complete.

The Staten Island Ferry Terminal is the next building to its south.

Governors Island Ferry Terminal.

We are approaching the Whitehall Terminal of the Staten Island Ferry. This new terminal building was just completed in 2005.

The ferry to Staten Island and back is free, and provides great views all around the harbor. It runs 24 hours every day of the year. At peak times a ferry leaves every 15 or 20 minutes. It's every 30 minutes through most of the day and evenings, and every 60 minutes overnight. The 8.4 kilometer one-way ride takes about 25 minutes.

Governors Island Ferry Terminal, Staten Island Ferry Terminal.
Staten Island Ferry Terminal, Exchange Place in Jersey City.

As we come to the corner of South Street and Whitehall Street, we can see the Exchange Place tower in Jersey City, across the Hudson River.

That's #1 New York Plaza across the street on the right. We're looking north up Whitehall Street here.

#1 New York Plaza, the corner of South Street and Whitehall, looking north on Whitehall.
Food vending cart on Whitehall Street.

There's another chance to pick up breakfast before going into the building.

An entrance to the MTA subway system is right nere, serving the #1 and R lines.

News stand on Whitehall Street.

And, one more chance to pick up today's New York Times. It's time to go in and head upstairs to the 31st floor.

Statue of Liberty, Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal, Ellis Island, Newark.

Views of New York Harbor and the East River from the 31st floor

The education center occupies the entire 31st floor, with fantastic views to the east and south. Pretty dramatic views west and north, too, but they're mainly of other Financial District buildings.

There's the Statue of Liberty in the right window, Staten Island across all three windows, and Governors Island in the left window.

31st floor windows.

Starting at the northeast corner, we're looking down on the Downtown Manhattan Heliport, and across the East River to Brooklyn.

Downtown Manhattan Heliport.
Downtown Manhattan Heliport.
Marine One at the Downtown Manhattan Heliport, from

Those are just routine business helicopters on the heliport's deck, but U.S. Presidential visits to New York use this heliport.

I happened to be working there one day when President Obama came to New York. Unfortunately, I did not have my camera. But I can say that I have looked down on Marine 1.

Next time I will recognize the signs of an imminent Presidential visit in the morning, and go back to the apartment to get my camera: Several NYPD boats cordoning off some of the water, and an NYPD boat following a diver around the structure.

Marine One is a Sikorsky VH-3D Sea King. It was accompanied by three Boeing CH-47 Chinook dual-rotor transports carrying the entourage on the day that I saw it here.

Downtown Manhattan Heliport and Brooklyn waterfront.

We're looking further south, to the piers and warehouses around the west end of Brooklyn's Atlantic Avenue.

One of the Staten Island Ferries makes the turn toward the terminal between Manhattan and Governors Island.

The white structure off the north end of Governors Island is a ventilation system for the Brooklyn—Battery Tunnel.

Staten Island Ferry, Governors Island, Brooklyn waterfront.
Staten Island Ferry Terminal.
View over the Staten Island Ferry Terminal and Governors Island to the Verrazano Narrows.

A ferry pulls in to the terminal. The ride takes 25 minutes and it runs every 30 minutes, so you can ride over to Staten Island and back in just an hour.

You have to get off at the other end and walk out and back in so the optical turnstiles can count the passengers and keep the operation compliant with U.S. Coast Guard regulations.

The ferries carry over 21 million passengers annually.

We're looking out over the Staten Island Ferry Terminal to Governors Island. A large passenger cruise ship is tied up at the Brooklyn cruise ship terminal.

Staten Island forms the horizon for the right half of this picture. The Verrazano Narrows Bridge is barely visible, spanning the Verrazano Narrows opening into New York Harbor.

A slow ferry crosses to Governors Island, while small fast ferries navigate around the southern tip of Manhattan.

Looking straight off the end of Manhattan to the southwest, we see the low hump of Staten Island on the horizon. It's 5.2 miles or 8.4 km away. To the right we see the Statue of Liberty.

View over New York Harbor: The Battery, Governor's Island, Staten Island, Statue of Liberty, Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal.
View over the Battery, Ellis Island, Pennsylvania Railroad Station at Exchange Place, Jersey City.

We're looking almost straight west here, over the mouth of the Hudson River to New Jersey.

Ellis Island is to our left. The old Pennsylvania Railroad New Jersey Terminal is near the center. To its right, disappearing behind the nearby dark building, is Jersey City's Exchange Place.

The Statue of Liberty is clearly visible, with the cranes of the enormous Port Newark—Elizabeth Marine Terminal visible beyond it.

Statue of Liberty.
Ellis Island.

Ellis Island is a largely man-made island in the harbor, connected to the New Jersey shore by a narrow jetty. Ellis Island was the United States' busiest immigrant inspection station from 1892 to 1954. Immigration control had been handled by the state of New York until 1890, when the federal government took control. Ellis Island was the first Federal immigration station.

About 1.5 million people were processed through the facility in its first five years. Then the enormous Georgia pine structure burned to the ground, destroying most of the immigration records back to 1955.

The current brick structure opened in 1900. Officials had estimated an arrival rate of up to 5,000 people per day, but the facility was barely able to handle the flood arriving just before World War I.

The peak year was 1907, with 1,004,756 people processed. The all-time peak day was April 17, 1907, when 11,747 people were processed through the facility. The Immigration Act of 1924 greatly restricted immigration and allowed processing at overseas embassies. The only immigrants to pass through Ellis Island for its last thirty years, 1924 through 1954, were displaced persons or war refugees. Ellis Island was then primarily used for detention and deportation processing. It was used to intern German merchant mariners and enemy aliens during World War II. It was also used for returning sick and wounded U.S. servicemen.

About 12 million immigrants were processed through Ellis Island. Today, about 100 millions Americans, or about one third of the population, are descended from immigrants who passed through Ellis Island.

Sunset over Jersey City and the New York Harbor.
Sunset over New Jersey and the New York Harbor.

It's the end of the day, the sun is setting over Jersey City's Exchange Place.

The ferries are still running, taking the Financial District workers home and returning for another load.

Now, are these really the same views that the main character had from his office in "The Thomas Crown Affair"?

Close, but not exactly.

The office scenes were filmed in a building one or two buildings north of #1 New York Plaza. In at least one shot you are looking down on the Brooklyn Bridge, which you can't see from this building.

But then the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and Jersey City and the sunset would not be visible from Crown's office.


USA Travel Destinations
Back to International Travel