8. Crossing Brooklyn Ferry – New York’s history of ferries immortalized by Walt Whitman

Crossing Brooklyn Ferry at Fulton Ferry Landing

Before bridges and elevated trains, ferries played a central role in the lives of 19th century New Yorkers. Yet, there are few paeans to the humble ferryboats or great ferry companies that traversed the East River before the advent of bridges and tunnels. The one exception is Walt Whitman’s famous poem “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” a contemplation on the Fulton Ferry, that looks back and forward through time. The opening lines,

“on the ferry-boats the hundreds and hundreds that cross, returning home, are more curious to me than you suppose

And you that shall cross shore to shore years hence are more to me and more in my meditations than you suppose,”

are inscribed at the Fulton Ferry landing, which opened in 1997 in what is now Brooklyn Bridge Park.