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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Almanac: Manhattan - Brooklyn ferry

Air Date: Week of September 21, 2001

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This week facts about the ferry from Manhattan to Brooklyn. After the World Trade Center disaster, New York restored service on this historic route.

Transcript

CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.

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CURWOOD: In the wake of the September 11th attacks, life in New York City has been altered in many ways. One small change is the return, at least for now, of ferry service from Brooklyn to Manhattan, after a 59-year hiatus. The New York Department of Transportation hopes the free hourly boats will help ease traffic congestions, from restrictions in the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and on the Brooklyn Bridge. The first ferry from, what is now, Brooklyn to what was then called New Amsterdam began back in 1642 with boats that were rode across the strong current in the East River. Passengers could wait for days for clear weather before crossing. Ferry travel improved in the 1800s. With the launch of steam ships, crossing times were cut to just a few minutes. The Union Ferry Company of Brooklyn transported almost 50 million passengers a year by mid-century, but the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883 sealed the ferries' fate. The city took over the ferries, but ended service to Brooklyn in 1942. Ironically, as travelers get a rare chance to ride a Brooklyn ferry today, with the World Trade Center Towers gone, the skyline of lower Manhattan looks much like it did back in 1942. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.

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