It’s time for a recommendation that’s certainly unique to New York, yet not touristy. Actually, it’ll be beyond “not touristy;” it’s so underappreciated that most of my close friends don’t even go there. I’m referring, of course, to the East River, separating Brooklyn and Queens from Manhattan and the Bronx. The stretch I recommend goes roughly from the Triboro Bridge to Battery Park.
Since the East River is possibly the most polluted natural body of water on the East Coast, I don’t recommend swimming in it. My recommendations are entirely on the banks of the river. If someone swims in the river and gets a horrible disease, I’m not responsible.
My first recommendation for activities along the river is on the Manhattan side. Beginning at the Staten Island Ferry terminal, the walkway/bikeway is simply fantastic and underappreciated. Almost instantly, you get spectacular views of the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges and Brooklyn on the other side of the river. A very brief walk will get you to a few bars on a pier and Industry Kitchen, a very metropolitan restaurant underneath the FDR Drive. Around Houston Street, there’s a large park with, amongst other things: soccer fields, the running track I used in high school, and tennis courts. Depending on how far you want to walk, the walkway can provide infinite views of Brooklyn, Queens, and the Williamsburg Bridge. It abruptly ends around 35th Street to facilitate an FDR Drive tunnel underneath the UN, but the walkway returns at 60th Street. This northern stretch doesn’t have many amenities, but amenities don’t really matter on either stretch. They’re all bonuses. The great thing about these walkways is that they’re simply relaxing.
I’m sure that most of us at Stevens are familiar with how it’s relaxing. You’re by the water, possibly with friends, the skyline doesn’t get old, and it’s a simple activity. However, the East River is basically the Hoboken waterfront on steroids. The East River is narrower than the Hudson River. You can walk to Brooklyn almost spontaneously from the lower section of the walkway, meanwhile, Hoboken is a good 9 miles away from the only pedestrian crossing between New York and New Jersey. Finally, the FDR Drive is right near the walkway, and I find highways rather relaxing.
Unfortunately, I don’t have much advice regarding the Brooklyn and Queens side of the river. It’s a lot less developed, aside from a few small parks and the fantastic Brooklyn Heights Promenade. The promenade has the best views of the city and Brooklyn Bridge, but the best of Brooklyn and Queens remains inland.