Watch history float by this summer
Summer is a time to explore the city and maybe learn some history, too. Fortunately for New Yorkers, the National Parks of New York Harbor Conservancy makes checking out the city’s historic sites and parklands fun, easy and cheap.
“In the summer, we all yearn for that great National Park experience, and many people don’t even realize that you can experience this nature, history and recreation in a great city like New York,” says Marie Salerno, president of the conservancy. “Additionally, this experience is either free or affordable.”
KAYAKING IN JAMAICA
For the first summer ever, the conservancy is introducing kayaking in the Jamaica wildlife refuge. The 9,155-acre site sits right on the Atlantic flyway, which means half of the birds in the U.S. (as well as airplanes from JFK) pass through each year on their migration south. Birders should head down to Canarsie Pier, rent a kayak for free, and check out the more than 330 bird species that have been spotted in the refuge. For more information, call (718) 763-2202.
Eager to discover just how New York City came to be the magnificent metropolis that it is today? The Gateway to America harbor tour features such celebrity narrators as Kathleen Turner and David Rockefeller Jr. and uses the health of the harbor and the story of immigration to explore the development of New York.
The boat tour starts out at the Battery Maritime Building and passes Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, the Red Hook industrial docks and the Brooklyn Bridge. Tickets cost $16 for adults, $14 for seniors and $12 for children under 12. Call 1-800-533-3779 for the weekly schedule.
Of course, New York’s historical narrative wouldn’t be complete without examining the strategic importance of the city and its surrounding waterways. The boat tour America’s Frontline: The Military History of New York Harbor begins with the initial conquests by the Dutch and runs all the way through the 9/11 attack.
The tour leaves every Wednesday at 2 p.m. from Pier 78 (W. 38th St. and 12th Ave.), heads down the Hudson River, past the remnants of Fort Wood, and out to Fort Wadsworth before turning back for a glimpse of Governors Island. Tickets are $26 for adults, $21 for seniors and $15 for children. Call 1-800-533-3779.
FOR ARMCHAIR TOURISTS
There are even tours for New Yorkers who don’t want to leave the house. History buffs will love the conservancy’s downloadable downtown walking tour, which explores the city’s Dutch origins. Narrated by local actors, the free tour is available on the conservancy’s Web site (www.NYHarborParks.org) and features 10 historically significant stops in what used to be New Amsterdam.
Starting in downtown Manhattan at the waterfront promenade, wind your way through the Battery to the steps of Federal Hall – all from the comfort of your own home. For more info: (212) 825-6880.
BY Jacob E. Osterhaut