On the water­front

Get out and about for a fresh view of the Big Ap­ple

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION AFLOAT - TONY PERROTTET

TIMET TO EX­PLORE: New York’s water­front has seen dra­matic ups and downs. It sank from be­ing the world’s busiest har­bour in the 1940s to a pol­luted waste­land in the 1970s, but is be­ing re­born as the city’s most ex­cit­ing new at­trac­tion. The ideal spot to con­tem­plate this re­ju­ve­na­tion is El­lis Is­land, where mil­lions of im­mi­grants ar­rived in the US. A few months ago the once-stodgy Na­tional Park site was also the set­ting for the fa­mous New York Ex­plor­ers Club din­ner, where glam­orous visi­tors in for­mal gear wan­dered the cav­ernous halls nib­bling on del­i­ca­cies such as roasted scor­pi­ons, bar­be­cued cock­roaches and flu­o­res­cent al­gae. The key­note speaker was Robert De Niro, who starred in a film on El­lis Is­land by the French artist known as JR, who placed pho­to­graphs of 19th-cen­tury im­mi­grants in the 29 aban­doned hospi­tal blocks, which un­til re­cently were of­flim­its. A “hard hat” tour of the se­cret site with Save El­lis Is­land is a haunt­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. More: ex­plor­ersclub.org; saveel­li­sis­land.org/ed­u­ca­tion/tour-el­lis-is­land/.

FLOAT THAT BOAT: New York is a city of is­lands. Get into the wa­ter with the Man­hat­tan Kayak Com­pany, owned by Eric Stiller. It’s an in­tensely ur­ban ex­pe­ri­ence as kayak­ers set off into the Hud­son River from a dock by 42nd Street near Times Square, then head south to ad­mire the golden light glint­ing off the Em­pire State and Chrysler Build­ings. From wavelevel, it’s easy to see why Tru­man Capote de­scribed Man­hat­tan as “a di­a­mond ice­berg” in 1950. “The per­cep­tion of New York wa­ter­ways as grim and pol­luted is stuck some­where in 1974,” Stiller says. “But things are a thou­sand times bet­ter than most peo­ple think. All the marine life is re­turn­ing. It’s a dif­fer­ent water­way.” More: man­hat­tankayak.com.

BEACH BECK­ONS: For decades, get­ting to New York’s At­lantic beaches in­volved an ex­haust­ing sub­way trip. But now any­one with a Metro­card can now hop a com­muter ferry from Wall Street to the sands. For $US2.75 ($3.50) take the 90-minute ride from Pier 11 to Rockaway Beach on a ferry with out­door seat­ing and even a bar. On sunny days, the har­bour is such a sparkling blue that (if you squint) it evokes the Aegean. At the beach, an art deco pav­il­ion in Ja­cob Riis Park has been taken over by hip­ster food ven­dors from Brook­lyn, so in­stead of hot dogs and Bud­weiser, the beach fare is now gourmet fish ta­cos and frozen daiquiris. More: ferry.nyc/routes-and-sched­ules/route/rockaway/. MAKEM MINE A SCHOONER: Grand Banks bar op­er­ates on a cen­tury-old cod-fish­ing schooner. It was named for the deep fish­ing zone in the North At­lantic where the Ti­tanic sank in 1912 and The Per­fect Storm was set. The schooner was sal­vaged by “mar­itime preser­va­tion­ists” broth­ers Miles and Alexan­der Pin­cus, and docks ev­ery sum­mer and au­tumn at Pier 25 on the Hud­son. Their lat­est project, Pilot Brook­lyn, opened this month at Pier Six in Brook­lyn; it’s an oys­ter bar on Amer­ica’s long­est-serv­ing pilot ship, a spec­tac­u­lar 1924-built schooner. More: grand­banks.org; pi­lot­brook­lyn.com.

WATERW MU­SIC: For 40 years, clas­si­cal mu­sic fans have flocked to Barge­mu­sic, a con­cert hall on a moored barge in Brook­lyn. It was founded by an ec­cen­tric vi­olin-play­ing Rus­sian emi­gre, Olga Bloom, in what was then one of the rough­est parts of the har­bour. When the barge was first brought to the spot, Olga told ad­mir­ers, she was wel­comed by crusty Ital­ian-born long­shore­men with bowls of hot pasta. The neigh­bour­hood is now chic DUMBO (Down Un­der the Man­hat­tan Bridge Over­pass), but au­di­ences are still lulled by the gen­tle rock­ing cre­ated by the wake of pass­ing boats. Dine af­ter­wards at The River Cafe, a lav­ish restau­rant ex­tend­ing di­rectly over the wa­ter, with mag­i­cal views of the sky­line. More: barge­mu­sic.org; theriver­cafe.com.

SPRAYS AND PLAY: The ven­er­a­ble Cir­cle Line boatsb have been slowly cir­cum­nav­i­gat­ing Man­hat­tanh for decades, of­ten with re­tired Broad­way ac­tors as guides. But far more vis­ceral is a ride with Me­dia Boat Tours, founded by pho­to­jour­nal­ist Bjo­ern Kils. These pow­er­ful Zo­di­acs, built for the US Depart­ment of De­fence, take pro­fes­sional cam­era­men from CNN and NBC on news sto­ries around the wa­ter­ways, then dur­ing off-hours in­vite the public. The trips could not be closer to the el­e­ments; pas­sen­gers are given wa­ter­proof jack­ets and the ag­ile craft zip into the most in­ac­ces­si­ble cor­ners. More: ny­medi­a­boat.com.

ARTA WHIRL: Artists have been drawn to New York’s wa­ter­ways since the Hud­son River school of painters worked in the 19th cen­tury. In 1986, sculp­tors Mark Di Su­vero and Isamu Noguchi set up the Socrates Sculp­ture Park in Queens, in­stalling grandiose min­i­mal­ist con­tem­po­rary art­works framed dra­mat­i­cally against the Man­hat­tan sky­line. Today, art is just about ev­ery­where be­side the wa­ter and the eas­i­est to reach is the Brook­lyn Bridge Park, which func­tions as an enor­mous gallery. More: socratess­culp­turepark.org; brook­lyn­bridgepark.org.

COCK­TAILS AND CAROUSELS: This year sees the com­ple­tion of the $US25 mil­lion ren­o­va­tion of Bat­tery Park, the his­toric wedge of green­ery at Man­hat­tan’s south­ern­most tip around Cas­tle Clin­ton, a fort built dur­ing the 1812 war to stave off an ex­pected Bri­tish at­tack. The lawns now of­fer some of the most spec­tac­u­lar pic­nic spots and bike routes in the city. The most ex­trav­a­gant artis­tic of­fer­ing is a gor­geous SeaGlass Carousel, which re­duces even the most blase New York­ers to wide-eyed won­der. Af­ter­wards, drop in at the Black­tail Bar on a con­verted wharf, where the de­sign and cock­tail list pay homage to Pro­hi­bi­tion-era bars. More: sea­glass­carousel.nyc; the­bat­tery.org; black­tail­nyc.com.

OYS­TERS AU NATUREL: Be­fore the Dutch ar­rived, the en­tire New York es­tu­ary was en­crusted with oys­ter reefs. To glimpse that lost preColom­bian world, vol­un­teer on a Fri­day at the Bil­lion Oys­ter Project, a pro­gram to rein­tro­duce the mol­luscs to the marine en­vi­ron­ment off Gov­er­nors Is­land. The project be­gan in 2008 as part of a public high school ini­tia­tive on the is­land; the idea is to teach city kids to sail, dive, be­come marine bi­ol­o­gists and man­age aqua­cul­ture. So far, 16.5 mil­lion oys­ters have been rein­tro­duced, a tiny frac­tion of the bil­lion pro­jected. Then stroll to dine at the brand-new Is­land Oys­ter bar, with un­ob­structed views of Man­hat­tan. More: is­landoys­ter.com; bil­lionoys­ter­pro­ject.org/get-in­volved/vol­un­teer/.

FLOAT­ING FLOORS: There’s a dizzy­ing ar­ray of evening boat tours, but none is more wildly ec­cen­tric or such down­right fun as the monthly party ar­ranged by Shang­hai Mer­maid on a mar­vel­lous three-masted schooner. New York­ers dress in vin­tage 20s cos­tumes and de­scend for a float­ing swing dance party to live jazz bands. An­other op­tion is the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Gov­er­nors Is­land, held twice ev­ery sum­mer. More: shang­haimer­maid.com; jaz­za­gelawn­party.com. • ny­cgo.com

Me­dia Boat Tours, main; Grand Banks bar on the schooner Sher­man Zwicker, top right; Jazz Age Lawn Party, cen­tre right; Rockaway Beach, above; SeaGlass Carousel, be­low

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.