1902 Encyclopedia > New York City > Docks. Ferries. Conveyances (Transport).

New York City
(Part 11)




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Docks. Ferries. Conveyances (Transport).

Docks. – Until 1870 the docks of the city were not confided to the care of a special department of the city government, and there was no adequate attempt made to put them in practical and durable shape, and to extend the wharf line. In that year a separate dock department was authorized by the legislature, and it is continued under the present charter. It is in charge of three commissioners, nominated by the mayor and confirmed by the aldermen. They hold office for six years, and receive an annual salary of $3000 each. The bulkhead line of the city from the battery to Sixty-First Street on the Hudson River, according to the new plan, measures 25,743 feet, and from the battery to Fifty-First Street on the east River 27,995 feet. At the battery a stone pier was completed several years ago. This is the only stone pier on the water front. The system which the department is trying to carry out proposes the construction of a new bulkhead wall, first along the Hudson River front, and eventually along the East River, and the widening of the street along the Hudson River to a width of 250 feet, and of that along the east River to a width of 150 feet in the lower part and of 100 feet in the upper part. A beginning of this work has been made along the Hudson River, but it makes slow progress, partly because the title to the water front in many places is disputed by private individuals, and this results in much tedious litigation. It is the intention to give 20 to 25 feet of water at every point along the new bulkhead. This bulkhead is now completed at detached points on the Hudson River, as from West Tenth Street to Canal Street, and from Jay Street to Warren Street, and the work is going on at other points. The allotment of wharfs and places in the harbor to vessels is not done by the dock or any other city department, but by the captain of the port and eleven harbor masters, all of whom are nominated by the governor of the State and confirmed by the State senate. The captain of the port holds office for three years, and the harbor masters for two years.

Ferries. – As New York is on all sides surrounded by water, ferryboats form the principal means of communication between it and the opposite shores. The water-courses of its northern boundary – Harlem River and Sputvel Creek – are narrow enough to be bridged; but, until the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge, steam ferry-boat supplied the only means of communication with New Jersey and Long and Staten Islands. These boats are arranged with cabins for passengers on both sides, and a roadway for horses, wagons, cattle, &c. in the middle. They are worked by the railroad companies and other private corporations. The principal ferries to New Jersey, running from the Hudson Riverside, have their piers at the foot of the followiong streets; - Liberty, Cortlandt, Barclay, Chambers, Desbrosses, Christopher, Twenty-Third, and Forty-Second. The principal ferries to Brooklyn, running from the East River side, have their piers at the foot of the following streets: - Whitehall (2), Wall, Catharine, Roosevelt, Grand, and Houston. There are also two ferry lines to Staten, Island, four to Long Island City, one to Astoria, L.I., one to Blackwell’s Island, two to Greenpoint, L.I., and to Governor’s Island. The Brooklyn ferry-boats leave their piers every ten minutes (and those from Fulton Street every five minutes) during the business hours, lessening their trips afterwards to one every fifteen or twenty minutes. On the New jersey side they run at intervals of from ten to thirty minutes. During certain of the busiest hours of the morning and evening the fare for each foot passenger on the leading Brooklyn ferries is 1 cent; during the rest of the day it is 2 cents. On the New Jersey ferries it is uniformly 3 cents.

Conveyances. – The rapid growth of the city in a long line to the northward has naturally led to great difficulties of transportation. The old omnibuses began to be supplemented in 1834 on all the leading longitudinal lines of thoroughfare by tramway cars drawn by two horses, but, though running in the most frequented routes at intervals of a minute, they became long ago unequal to the demands on them. As the dwelling houses became farther and farther separated from the business part of the city, the discomfort and delay of this mode of travel, especially in winter weather, grew very serious, and caused a considerable migration to Jersey City and Brooklyn of persons who would have remained on Manhattan island but for the difficulty of getting to and fro. After a long period of clamorous discontents, the remedy was applied in 1878 by the construction of what is known as the Elevated Railroad, worked by steam locomotives on raised iron trestle work in four of the avenues, the Ninth, Sixth, Third, and Second, and running from the Battery to the Harlem River every three to four minutes, 10 cents being the ordinary fare for the entire distance of 10 miles, but with "commission" trains at 5 cents between certain hours of the morning and evening, for the accommodation of the working classes, the fare in these having been fixed by the State commission which settled the conditions of the charters. The result has been a very rapid increase of population in the upper end of the island.


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