Red Hook Histories : East River Ferry, then and now by Maryam Daghmoumi

Hopefully, many of you have already had a chance to take the new South Brooklyn Ferry route that launched on June 1st. If you haven’t yet had the chance, then you are missing out on literally the best way to get in and out of the Red Hook / Columbia Waterfront District area.  For those that have had the chance to ride, you already know how refreshing and easy it is! As with all new endeavors, there is bound to be some hiccups along the way.  Those who tried getting to Rockaway on the first few weekends know this very well. In response to the unexpectedly high demand the New York Economic Development Corporation and Hornblower have decided to expand the capacity of three of their boats to 250 person capacity, up from 149, which is great for those looking to get to Rockaway on the weekends. But what what about those looking to actually use it as a way to commute? In the last month, the South Brooklyn Ferry line transported 83,000 passengers between Bay Ridge and Wall St, and they expect ridership to increase further in the coming months.
I think Hornblower should take a page out of their predecessors  book and provide more frequent service during rush hours. According to Maggie Land Blanck (and the Brooklyn Eagle Almanac of 1890) who conducted extensive research on Red Hook and surrounding areas.  See more on that below.

Union Ferry Company ferry:

” From Hamilton av. to Whitehall st. New York. From 5 A. M. to 6 A. M. every 15 minutes; 6 A. M. to 7 P. M. every 10 minutes; 7 P. M. to 12 P. M. every 15 minutes; 12 P. M. to 5 A . M. every 30 minutes.”-Brooklyn Daily eagle almanac 1890

Van Brunt and Erie Basis line railroad:

“From Hamilton Ferry, through Hamilton av. to Van Brunt st, to the Erie Basin, through Elizabeth st. to Columbia St. Erie Basin Dry docks. Transfers by Brooklyn City R. r. to Fulton Ferry, passing all ferries, also by South Brooklyn Central R. R. from Hamilton Ferry through Sackett, Hoyt and Bergen Sts. to Albany av.”-Brooklyn Daily Eagle almanac, 1889

“The Hamilton Ave Ferry went from the foot of Whitehall street in Manhattan to the foot of Hamilton ave in Brooklyn.

From 1846 this line was operated by the Union Ferry Co.


Officials of the Union Ferry Company say that at no time since the opening of the East River Bridge, in 1884, has the business at the ferries been as great as it is now. The reason is said to be the introduction of the trolley as a motive power for surface roads. So many people object to climbing the steps to the elevated stations, it is said, that they take the new trolley cars instead and go by the ferries.Three of these trolley roads go to Hamilton Ferry, and as a result extra boats have been put on that route, and efforts are being made to get two ferry slips in this city instead of the one now in use at the foot of Whitehall street.

Very large and handsome boats have been put into commission on this ferry and they are crowded with passengers all day and very greatly overcrowded in the morning and evening hours.

(The Electrical Engineer: A Weekly Review of Theoretical and …, Volume 15, 1893)

In 1897 the Hamilton Ave Ferry at the foot of Hamilton street connected to to lines to trolly lines to Brooklyn Heights, Nassau Electric lines and Coney Island Electric lines”


Share Page