Image via Brooklyn Bridge Park by Etienne Frossard
Once a bustling commerce site and entry point for immigrants, Brooklyn Bridge Park has since transformed into one of New York City’s most visited tourists attractions, boasting six piers and a wide array of recreational facilities. Today, visitors and locals alike revel in the panoramic views of the iconic skyline while strolling along the park’s famous promenade. It’s easy to be distracted by such a sight since Brooklyn Bridge Park does offer the perfect backdrop for photographs. However, it also holds a rich and fascinating history that’s worth exploring.
The Clermont making its first voyage up the Hudson River
In 1814, the company of Robert Fulton, the inventor of the world’s first commercially successfully steamboat, established an effective ferry system to help cross the East River. With its launch, workers began to move Brooklyn, where they relied on the ferry to commute to their jobs in Manhattan. This eventually helped to transform the area into one of the world’s first “commuter suburbs,” and the third-largest city in America.
By 1853, the Union Ferry Company of Brooklyn, the successor to Fulton’s business, had established dozens of lines across the East River. The ferry system continued to grow at a rapid pace until the early 20th century, when advances in technology and transportation caused its eventual decline. Walt Whitman commemorated the beauty of crossing by ferry in the poem, “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” and Fulton Ferry Landing in Brooklyn Bridge Park marks the historic site with an art installation inspired by the poem.
Today, Brooklyn Bridge Park is what it is partly due to the fact that modern planners predicted that waterfront access in the form of a vibrant public park would contribute to population growth in the borough, just as it had in the mid-1850s. Ferries are also making a comeback with the arrival of the East River Ferry in 2011 and the planned launch of the Five Borough Ferry system in 2018.