Staten Island Ferry

Looking at TV and Internet images of natural disasters is always tough, but never more so when you’re familiar with the region or you know people in the disaster zone. Such was the case for me this week. Hurricane Sandy ran right over the cities I visited last summer and I nervously waited to hear from people near and dear to me in Baltimore and New York City who both, thankfully, made it through to the other side of Sandy unscathed.

I was talking about the hurricane with a colleague on Tuesday morning, and I tried to explain to her the geography of New York City as she doesn’t know the city. That conversation made me think of the video I shot last summer from the Staten Island Ferry.

The Staten Island Ferry runs between the boroughs of Manhattan and Staten Island. It’s a free service, and I love ferry boats, so I hopped on one morning to get a good look at Lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty from the water. It’s about a 30-minute ride for the five-mile trip. On the Staten Island side, most tourists ― as did I ― turn around and hop right back on the ferry for the return trip to Manhattan.

The ferry connects with the subway on the Manhattan side. As you’ll see in the video, it was a bit of a blustery day when I took my ferry ride. After I disembarked, I stood at the subway entrance for a few minutes, debating whether to head Uptown on the train (much faster) or the bus (much better view). The subway station where I stood that morning (South Ferry – Whitehall Street) had water up to its ceiling on Monday night, and as far as I understand is still flooded.

I decided on the bus just as the skies opened up. It turned out to be a bit of a wild ride because of the weather. At each stop, New Yorkers poured onto the bus holding newspapers over their heads, and through the open bus doors I could see water gushing down the street.

But back to the video. The reason I wanted to show it to you is so you can see just how low Lower Manhattan is. Much of the southern tip of the island is, in fact, reclaimed land. (The Dutch were the first Europeans to settle on Manhattan, and they know a thing or two about reclaiming land.) You can see Battery Park in the video ― it’s those trees to the left. That’s the park I so enjoyed walking through last summer, and it too was badly flooded on Monday night. It’s not hard to imagine how much damage the record-breaking 13-foot storm surge could cause in this city. The East River is to the right, spanned by the Brooklyn Bridge, and the river to the far left is the Hudson.

Both ferry terminals of the Staten Island Ferry were damaged by Hurricane Sandy. As of this writing, partial service is expected to resume on Friday.

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