Immigrants & Ferries: From Trek to Travel <ul><li>By Pavel Isakov </li></ul>
The Journey Here <ul><li>Immigrants from eastern and southern Europe rode ferries to major cities to undertake the journey by boat to America </li></ul><ul><li>Ferries were a symbol of a passage to a better life; one not bound by economic endangerment or persecution </li></ul><ul><li>After a gruesome trip of an average of 12 days, in horrible living conditions, immigrants hoped that they would arrive directly on the island of Manhattan, but the processing center at Ellis Island made the exiting ferry an object of disappointment and delay. </li></ul>
Quarantine: Paying Charon <ul><li>Ferries also held a distinct duality to immigrants seeking to leave places of inadequate health facilities </li></ul><ul><li>The path to freedom and the path to deportation was often based on how healthy an immigrant was once he got off the boat </li></ul><ul><li>Quarantined areas like the Mariner’s Hospital in Staten Island were burned out of the scorn and fear of residents toward the “indecency and filthiness” new immigrants. </li></ul><ul><li>The lack of inadequate attention to the vast number of quarantined individuals and the spread of epidemics like cholera and yellow fever made local ferries a path to the “Hades” of New York </li></ul><ul><li>Diseases such as trachoma and conjunctivitis were enough to send immigrants home, which for many meant that the ferry NOT going to Manhattan was a death sentence </li></ul><ul><li>A Jewish social worker, Cecilia Razovsky, warned the ill against making the journey to America: "Before you decide to leave your own country and begin a new life in a strange land, Think Hard! Consider Long! Decide Slowly! . . . Be sure to be free of trachoma, because America will not let [the immigrant] enter if he shows a trace of it." (Bulletin of the History of Medicine 74.3 (2000) 525-560) </li></ul><ul><li>Trachoma Poster, (Courtesy of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Studies, New York, N.Y.) </li></ul>
Hustle & Bustle New York’s liveliness during the early 20th century stemmed much from the port activity of ferries and trade ships. This is what Early 20th Century immigrants would have likely saw on a daily basis. Video via Browser
Posters For Passage to America None of these mention that immigrants would have to be processed or ferried across for quarantine!
A Gateway Across America <ul><li>Ferries in the city and the Hudson River Valley became a form of transport made for immigrants, by immigrants. </li></ul><ul><li>Irish Immigrants helped build the Erie Canal (pictured) which carried newer immigrants into greater New York </li></ul>
Slow and Unsteady: The Decline of Ferries <ul><li>As the population of New York City boomed with the influx of new immigrants during the late 19th century, the status of ferries changed dramatically </li></ul><ul><li>A leisurely way to get from different parts of the city became an overcrowded vessel of disease and vagrancy as lower class immigrants, looking to escape the overcrowded city settled in the outer boroughs. </li></ul>
Renewal and Replacement : Immigrant Innovation of Modern Transport <ul><li>Robert Fulton </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Fulton, the son of an Irish immigrant, utilized the steam engine on ferries, spurring the growth of Brooklyn, which developed into its own city by 1834. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Steamboats filled the harbor of New York with life and made the trip much quicker and less uncomfortable. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>John Augustus Roebling </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Recognizing the inadequacy and inefficiency of ferries, German-born immigrant Roebling designed the wire rope suspension for the Brooklyn Bridge. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Roebling sought to merge the industrial hub of Manhattan with the growing residential community in the Brooklyn- Queens area. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Died during construction before he got the chance to see “the danger and discomfort” of ferries disappear </li></ul></ul>
Ferries: Vehicles of Disaster? <ul><li>Up to the end of the 19th century, ferries were a form of transport free of class distinctions. </li></ul><ul><li>The Staten Island Ferry was and is still used by a various mix of people from different economic and ethnic backgrounds. </li></ul><ul><li>However, following the Westfield Disaster of 1871, which killed 85 people, the unreliability of ferries became distinct in the both the immigrant and “native” community </li></ul><ul><li>The New York Times article “Appalling Disaster” affirmed that the Staten Island Ferry was usually a place where people of all ethnicities (even though it points out the difference between “Germans” and Americans) found enjoyment in “children playing on the docks and noxious mothers guard[ing] them with jealous care” (New York Times, 1871) </li></ul><ul><li>Accidents in 2003 and 2009 have led many to question why ferries are in operation to this day. </li></ul><ul><li>Galina Karchunova, a Russian immigrant from Staten Island comments on the dangers the ferry still holds.“To this day, the ferry has accidents. They were already slow and it becomes another excuse for us not to use them anymore.” </li></ul>Pictured: Illustration of Westfield Disaster (Left) and 2003 Ferry Crash (Right)
The Ruins of An Old Vessel: The Staten Island Ferry <ul><li>Every Sunday, on my journey home to visit my parents, I ask myself, “Why does this ferry even exist?” </li></ul><ul><li>For Staten Island residents, the ferry, in of itself, is a buffer from “the city” and the “beloved” borough of parks. The immigrants and their children that have settled in Staten Island, seeking the peace and comfort of a suburban life, are the heirs to the first bedroom communities of Brooklyn. </li></ul><ul><li>By not utilizing a subway system, New Yorkers have preserved a sense of community while maintaining its “unique New York-ness” with immigrant communities in Tottenville, South Beach and Stapleton. </li></ul>Photo courtesy of openairtravelinfo.com
The Road Scholar: A Modern Immigrant Experience <ul><li>In the documentary, Road Scholar (1992), a Romanian immigrant named Andrei Codrescu (pictured) takes a ride on the ferry and recalls Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” </li></ul><ul><li>Immigrants revitalized these symbols of New York life for their own, making new of the very old. </li></ul>Courtesy of Octavia Books
The Rise of the Commute <ul><li>So we ask, what does the ferry mean to immigrants who commute to the city? </li></ul><ul><li>Following the construction of the Gowanus Expressway during the 1950s under Robert Moses and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in 1964, the Staten Island Ferry, without any major improvements, lagged behind in terms of the speed and efficiency of more modern transportation systems like express buses and subways. </li></ul><ul><li>Even though it now accommodates 60,000 riders daily (The Staten Island Ferry Website), the Staten Island Ferry’s 20 minute ride is not quick enough to keep up with many of New Yorkers’ commutes. </li></ul>Photo Courtesy of SI Live
From Trek to Tourism: A New Hope <ul><li>Nowadays, the remnants of the ferry system within New York City cater mostly to two groups: tourists and Staten Island residents. </li></ul><ul><li>The vast influx of potential immigrants as well as visiting tourists look to ferries to relive the experiences of old immigrants, using them to enjoy New York’s waterfront, the Statue of Liberty and day trips to Staten Island </li></ul><ul><li>Likewise, established immigrants and the children of immigrants (such as myself) move from parts of Brooklyn to Staten Island to assimilate, yet retain cultural dynamism. With the rise of the expressways and public bus systems of the 20th century, The Verrazano Bridge overshadows the ferry in the modern era as a form of transportation and “connection to the mainland”. </li></ul><ul><li>Pictured, Typical Staten Island Residents. Photo Origin, Unknown. (Probably MySpace) </li></ul>
In Retrospect For the immigrants of old, ferries were a segway to a fierce new world, where every square inch of New York City, even its waterfront, was alive with locomotion. Nowadays, despite the stagnation of the ferries, immigrants young and old acculturated these passages by boat into their in the big city. Pictured: View of New York. 1849 Courtesy ofNew York Public Library Digital Collections
Sources & Further Reading <ul><li>2003 Crash Photo New York Times 2003 </li></ul><ul><li>Anniversary of the “Vessel of Death” Westfield Illustration from silive.com </li></ul><ul><li>Appalling Disaster 1871, New York Times </li></ul><ul><li>Old Erie Canal Image. Greenville Chamber Area. http://www.greenvillechamber-pa.com/relocation.aspx?v=10 </li></ul><ul><li>Panorama Waterfront and Brooklyn Bridge from East River 1903 Courtesy of tigerrocket. youtube.com </li></ul><ul><li>Passage to America Posters, Landmark Learning Press </li></ul><ul><li>Road Scholar (1992), Rodger Weisberg </li></ul><ul><li>Quarantine! Eastern European Jewish Immigrants and the New York City Epidemics . Howard Markel </li></ul><ul><li>"The Eyes Have It": Trachoma, the Perception of Disease, the United States Public Health Service, and the American Jewish Immigration Experience, 1897-1924, Howard Markel . Bulletin of the History of Medicine 74.3 (2000) 525-560 </li></ul><ul><li>The Staten Island Ferry Website . siferry.com </li></ul><ul><li>Trachoma Poster . Bulletin of the History of Medicine 74.3 (2000) 541 </li></ul>Any images uncredited were not used for copyright or profit, but for educational purposes.