New ferries are a great way to get around New York and the best new way to see the city for the cost of a subway fare

DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
[email protected]

Six new ferry lines run up and down New York City’s East River, and they are the best new way to get a great view of New York and to get around.

Each route takes 30 to 60 minutes to travel end-to-end, and each costs only $2.75, the same as a subway fare, and transfers are available. All of the lines terminate at Pier 11 at Wall Street.

So you can start in The Bronx — Clason Point along the Harlem River — transfer at Wall Street three stops later — and take another ferry all the way to Rockaway.
For commuters, this is a wonderful way to get around the city while avoiding the subways that are in worse condition than ever. The Astoria route, for example, starts in Queens, crosses the river to Roosevelt Island, crosses again to pick up passengers in Long Island City and returns to Manhattan to stop at 34th Street and end at Wall Street.

On a recent trip to NYC, we picked up the ferry on Roosevelt Island. We took the F train from Briarwood, Queens. Actually it was an E train running on the F train tracks because of track and station repair along the route the E train normally runs. And it was part local and part express. And if I wasn’t with a cousin who understood what construction was going on where, I would never have gotten to Roosevelt Island because the explanation of the change in service that was posted in the station was small print and literally floor to ceiling.

What a mess.

But we got to Roosevelt Island, which is in the East River, and walked about three blocks to the pier.

And that’s where you see the first New York sites — the overhead tram and the Feelin’ Groovy Bridge (the 59th Street Bridge officially known as the Ed Koch or Queensboro Bridge). Buy your ticket on an app available at or in a ticket machine similar to those at DART rail stations.

The ferry travels under three more bridges on its way to Wall Street — the Williamsburg, the Manhattan and the Brooklyn bridges.

From the river are wonderful views of New York’s two greatest skyscrapers — the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building. From 42nd to 45th streets the United Nations stands along the shore and it is best seen from the river. On the Brooklyn side, get a great view of DUMBO, the neighborhood between the Brooklyn Bridge and “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.”

From Pier 11 at Wall Street, we could have transferred to a ferry to Governor’s Island in the harbor between lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, one of New York City’s latest attractions, open May 1-Oct. 31. Art and cultural events take place on the 172-acre island that has been developed into a park. About 50 historic buildings from the former military base on the island still stand and are awaiting redevelopment.

We walked around the Battery. Helicopter tours of New York are offered from the next pier. A separate ferry that carries vehicles to Governor’s Island leaves from the next building. Then the Staten Island Ferry and finally the boats to Liberty Island and Ellis Island are next.

The Staten Island Ferry used to cost a nickle to ride. Then the fare went up to match subway fares. Now it’s the best bargain in the city: It’s free.

As the boat pulls out of its berth in The Battery, you get the best view of Lower Manhattan from the stern. The new Liberty Tower stands framed by other high rises at the tip of the island.

A little farther out, a new and surprisingly large skyline on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River balances the skyline on the New York side.

The Staten Island Ferry is about a 20-minute ride across the harbor and passes within a mile of Ellis Island and then the Statue of Liberty. Although both islands are clearly in New Jersey waters, the islands are part of New York. The statue faces the New York side with a great view from the ferry, while her ass points directly at New Jersey.

In the Staten Island terminal, there are a variety of places to eat. On the weekend I visited, though, few were open. We stopped in one that sold salads and bright red MAGAwear, reminding us this is New York City’s one conservative borough.

There’s little to do on Staten Island, but a train does run from the terminal at St. George across the island to Tottenville facing New Jersey. The National Lighthouse Museum is next to the terminal.

The ferry returns to Manhattan every 30 minutes, more often during weekday rush hour.

We spent half a day on our water tour of New York but certainly could have continued throughout the day or longer had we incorporated trips to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island or even a Circle Line Tour that takes several hours as it travels up the Hudson and Harlem Rivers before returned to its berth down the Hudson.