On New York Harbor tonightJuly 6th, 2012 at 9:36 pm ET
I had an errand to run in Jersey City this evening. The PATH train doesn’t allow bikes during rush hour — I’ve never seen anyone enforcing that, but why risk it? — and I like being on the water, so I left work and biked up to the 39th Street Hudson ferry terminal in midtown Manhattan.
I’d never been to that terminal before, and I was surprised how bustling it was — not exactly crowded in the way the Lackawanna Ferry terminal in Hoboken must have been once upon a time, but still busier than I expected. It reminded me of a small airport (Lansing maybe, or the Marine Air Terminal at La Guardia). It had 8 or 9 slips, and boats being announced and coming and going more or less continuously during the evening rush, to half a dozen destinations.
So I bought a one-way ticket to Newport (and a bike ticket) and rode the ferry across to the Jersey City waterfront. The Newport terminal is deserted — just a rush-hour stop, basically just a dock bolted to a patch of asphalt, but I rode around the boardwalk and through the Newport business district into downtown Jersey City, and across to take care of my business in the crook of the expressway that approaches the Holland Tunnel.
Afterwards, I rode around Harsimus Cove, Hamilton Park, and downtown for a while. Five years ago or so I lived in downtown Jersey City (near 5th and Brunswick, if you’re keeping track), on the second floor of a tumbledown triple-decker near a vacant-lot-turned-community-garden. It was cheap, and the owner was friendly and respectful, and the neighbors were civil, so I pretended not to mind that if you set an egg down on one end of the kitchen floor it would roll to the other end.
In 2007 the neighborhood was “in transition.” It’s still a mixed neighborhood, in transition culturally, racially, economically — but it feels safer and more settled. There are new businesses on Newark Avenue, a couple of new restaurants around the park, a very nice ice cream parlor on 1st Street two blocks from the PATH. (There’s also a spiffy-looking Key Food that replaced the filthy C-Town supermarket I used to avoid.) Tiresome-looking gay couples of a certain age (i.e., mine), always a reliable indicator of neighborhood investment, were about. I stopped for an excellent burger and a couple of cocktails at the tavern at 9th and Coles right near Hamilton Park (what used to be on this corner? I can’t even remember), swung by the ice-cream parlor (which I knew of only as a result of jealously reading Linda Yang’s Foursquare checkins), and made my way south to Paulus Hook for the return ferry to Wall Street.
I’d taken this ferry before, when I lived in Jersey City. It’s obviously a heavier-traffic route — bigger boats, and apparently seven-day service. The Midtown-to-Newport ferry is a short ride downriver, but Paulus-Hook-to-Pier-11 is a sweeping ride across the top of Upper New York Bay, past Liberty Island and the Staten Island ferry terminal, with the lower Manhattan skyline in full view ahead of you. It’s probably the best $7 boat ride in New York — plus $1 for my bike, which you can see threatening to tumble into New York Harbor in the photo above. It didn’t tumble, though, and I rode home the few blocks from Pier 11 feeling like I’d had an adventure at sea in the middle of the afternoon.