New York City has millions of stories to tell and many of them come from the city’s 520 miles of coastline. You can see a lot of that New York City coast on a Skyline Cruise, but you may not know some of the stories behind the waterways that give you a view of some of the world’s most spectacular sites. Skyline calls these waters home and we want to share 5 interesting facts about the New York City coast’s and waterways, particularly on the East River where we pass by every day. We hope you enjoy learning more about the greatest city in the world.
Fact 1: The East River Isn’t Really a River
Even though we always call it a river, it’s actually a tidal strait because it doesn’t flow from a fresh water source. According to the Queens Gazette, the waterway was formed over 11,000 years ago by the melting of the Wisconsin glacier, which caused the Atlantic Ocean to advance. The East River is known for its narrow channel and difficult currents, but navigation became much easier with the clearing of reefs from the Hell Gate, a section of the East River located between Ward’s Island and the Queens Coast.
Fact 2: People Have Traveled to Roosevelt Island by Tram and by Elevator
Roosevelt Island, a community of 14,000 people located on the East River between Manhattan and Queens has long had one of the most unique ways to commute into Manhattan. Since 1976, a tramway has spanned the river between the island and the Upper East Side. The tram, which climbs to a height of 250 feet, was originally built as a temporary solution to the island’s lack of subway service, according to the New York Times. Less well known, is that at one time, people were able to take an elevator down to Roosevelt Island from the Queensboro Bridge. According to the website, Untapped Cities, passenger and car elevators became obsolete when a bridge to the island was opened in the 1950s with the passenger elevator still being open as late as 1973.
Fact 3: A Bridge Over the East River Goes by Three Names
We’ve already told you one of the names. The Queensboro Bridge is more than a century old. Construction began in 1901 and the bridge was opened in 1909, according to the New York City Department of Transportation. Many still call it the Queensboro Bridge, but any Native New Yorker will tell you that a large portion of the population always call it The 59th Street Bridge, named for the street it connects to in Manhattan and immortalized by the 1966 Simon and Garfunkel song. But the Bridge is now officially known as the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge to honor the late mayor who served from 1978 to 1989.
Fact 4: Liberty Island Went by Several Other Names
We think of Liberty Island as the home of one of our nation’s enduring symbols, the Statue of Liberty, but the island’s history dates back to 994 when it was first inhabited by native Americans, according to the National Park Service. European settlers initially called it Oyster Island and in 1669 Dutch Colonist Isaac Bedloe was given ownership of the island on the condition that it be named Love Island. It was renamed Bedloe Island after the landowner’s death and that name stuck through takeovers by the English and New York City which used it as a quarantine facility as well as the federal government. It was renamed Liberty Island by an act of Congress in 1956.
Fact 5: The First European Settlement of New York Was On Governors Island
Governors Island, located off of the Southern tip of Manhattan was the site of the first European settlement of New York, then called New Amsterdam, in 1624. The Dutch West India Company first set up camp on the island rather than brave the wilderness of Manhattan Island, according to the Governors Island website. It’s called Governors Island because it served as the home of British Royal Governors who oversaw New York during colonial times.
As you can see, there’s a lot of history on these waters and we hope you join us for a memorable journey on our climate controlled ship soon. All of Skyline’s ships have onboard catering available and we promise a memorable trip. Contact Skyline Cruises today!