The best way to admire the Manhattan skyline is from the harbor. Staten Island Ferry, considered the “Best Ride in New York City,” gives you this opportunity for free. Everybody knows that New York City is the city that never sleeps. Staten Island ferry schedule proves it: ferry runs 24/7 365 (or even 366!) days a year! From the deck of the ferry you will have a perfect view of The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. You'll see the skyscrapers and bridges of Lower Manhattan. Today, the ferry is recognized as a New York icon and a symbol of the borough of Staten Island.
Today, Staten Island is the fastest growing borough in New York City. In area, it is two and a half times as large as Manhattan, but its current population of nearly 500,000 is less than Manhattan’s was in 1850. The only direct link to Manhattan is the Staten Island Ferry.
The first Ferry between Manhattan and Staten Island established in 1747. On October 25, 1905, the new ferryboats named after the five city boroughs - Brooklyn, Bronx, Richmond, Queens, and Manhattan were introduced. These were the largest ferries on the East Coast and made the crossing ( 5 miles- 8 km) in 22.5 minutes.
In 1905, a nickel bought a ride aboard one of these coal burning steam ferries. In the early days of NYC ferry travel one side of the boat had the men's toilet and the other side had the women's toilet and the signage was to assist passengers so they could easily locate the correct facility without having to encircle the entire vessel. Later after these boats were retrofitted with multiple bathrooms on each side the MEN and WOMEN sides became SMOKING and NO SMOKING sides.
On July 4 1997, after 82 years of the history, the Staten Island Ferry (50 cents round trip) , turned into a free boat ride, just as the same day when a new Metrocard allow free transfers between buses and subways in the city.
In October 2003 one of the five vessels slammed into a pier while docking amidst high winds. Eleven commuters were killed. Since then, precautions and protocols have been adopted and the ferry returned to service after a multimillion-dollar rehabilitation with a permanent memorial plaque. Seven years later the same ferry boat , the Andrew J. Barberi, one of the largest in the Staten Island fleet, was involved in another accident. The ferry was commissioned in 1981. For five days after Hurricane Sandy, the Staten Island Ferry did not operate. The boats were mostly unscathed during the storm. But there was $30 million in damage to the St. George and Whitehall terminals and to the piers.
New York is planning to acquire a total of three new 4,500-passenger ferries that will be more maneuverable, resilient and capable of operating in a wider range of locations and conditions.
Now on a typical day, 109 trips move about 70,000 people across the harbor, making the Staten Island Ferry one of the most reliable forms of mass transit in the city. A new Staten Island Ferry Terminal in Manhattan was open in 2005, replacing the old one damaged by fire in 1991.
No cars are allowed on the ferries after carried due to security concerns after 9/11/2001.
There are nine ferry boats in four classes currently in service. The keel of the newest one Spirit of America built with steel from The World Trade Center Towers. The ship was named to honor the spirit and unity of America after the attacks.
Two of them The Newhouse and Barberi are the highest passenger capacity vessels in the world at 6000 passengers each.
Beer, soft drinks, sandwiches, hotdogs, and pretzels are available for purchase on board, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But my advice is- grab something to eat before embarking the ferry - you can have better and cheaper choices. To enjoy the best free view of the statue of Liberty and the wonderful New York skyline do not go inside the boat and stand near the railing on the right side of the ferry. And do not forget to bring a jacket or a windbreaker - the winds on the water can be surprisingly brisk. The best time to go is 30 minutes before the sunset on a sunny day. And do not leave you camera at home!