My sister Pamela and her good friend Billy visited NY the past couple days, and last evening she took us on a Classic Harbor Line cruise in NY harbor with an AIA-certified guide, Scott Cook, who spoke very knowledgeably about NY buildings and the Manhattan, Brooklyn, and NJ waterfronts. It was far superior to NY’s more well-known and trafficked Circle Line! The docent Cook, one of six architecture professionals who work these cruises for Classic Harbor, was very good, a fluent speaker, quick to deliver interesting information on individual buildings, their locations, the architects responsible for them, and details of their design and especially their ‘green’ features. He described NY’s waterfront as our “sixth borough,” an idea that really appeals to me, and he broached urban issues, from climate change to how the Hudson River Park and Brooklyn Bridge Park are permitting high-rise development in exchange for resources for upkeep of these newly created public spaces.
The docents have to be quick because the boats of Classic Harbor are so-called ‘motor yachts,’ and they cruise at quite good speed. The vessel we sailed on was the Manhattan II, nicely appointed with teak and mahogany and lots of clean, clear wrap-around glass. Inside was a lounge with many comfortable seats at wide tables, quite a roomy space. The copy on the brochure and map they handed out (pictured below) suggests that these NY Harbor cruises are the least crowded of all the lines offering these boat rides, and I believe it—nothing at all like being on the subway, an unfortunately apt comparison for the ride I took a couple years ago on the Circle Line. Out on deck there’s some bench seating, and enough room to walk and stand comfortably, though carefully, leaning on rails and holding on to pieces of the ship. The captain was a rather young mariner, who helmed the yacht very ably, coming to a floating rest a number of times, near the Statue of Liberty, the shore of Governors Island, the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, and Battery Park City. Figured in to the price of a ticket is a free drink, so Kyle and I welcomed the discovery that Yuengling’s light beer is very drinkable!
A coincidental sidelight made me eager to go on this tour: when I was executive editor with Times Books at Random House in the late ’90s, I acquired, edited, and published the 4th Edition of the AIA Guide to New York City, an essential handbook that has been published continuously since 1967, with a new edition out roughly every decade. The edition I published—by architect and pithy writer about buildings and public spaces Norval White—included entries on more than 5,000 of the metropolis’s buildings in all five boroughs, a book I still treasure.
I hope at some point to take Classic Harbor Line’s cruise that circumnavigates all of Manhattan, a three-hour trip, twice the duration of the trip we took Sunday night. Given my personal interest in the GWB, aka The Great Gray Bridge, and The Little Red Lighthouse, I’m sure I will enjoy that tour even more. Here are lots more of my pictures, with commentary in the captions, though it’s a dead certainty I’ll come nowhere recalling most of the buildings and architects that Scott Cook named, but the day was so clear with abundant light, I think you’ll be able to appreciate many of the views and buildings anyway.