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Captain John Doswell abourd ship

Working Harbor Committee members are marine operators, waterfront advocates, historic boat owners, and many other things...




Our Mission

The Mission of the Working Harbor Committee is to strengthen awareness of the working harbor's history and vitality today, and its opportunities for the future, by:

Involving people in learning how the harbor works and what it does;

Educating people in the rich and challenging history of the harbor;

Making people aware of the need to build and sustain the working harbor.

The Harbor of New York and New Jersey (commonly called New York Harbor) has always been the region's greatest treasure, providing water links that have connected its residents with the world since the days of New Amsterdam. From the time Henry Hudson discovered the Hudson River in his ship Half Moon in 1609, early square-rigged trading and discovery vessels maintained the water link with Europe for centuries. Gradually, sailing designs evolved into super-fast "clipper" ships before being replaced by steam-driven vessels. Millions of immigrants migrated to the new world by water, and until passenger jets transformed the way we travel, transatlantic ships were the only way to travel back and forth between New York and the rest of the world.

The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 created a revolution in the way freight reached Chicago by water, through the canal system and Great Lakes, thus furthering the importance of New York Harbor.

Eventually steam was replaced by diesel but a visitor to the harbor in the early 1900s would have been able to see all three propulsion modes (sail, steam and diesel) in operation, as the harbor reached its peak in traffic. Ferries carried railroad passengers from terminals in New Jersey to Manhattan. Ships, both passenger and freight, lined the many piers in Manhattan, Brooklyn and New Jersey. Car floats carried box cars across the water to rail connections at both ends. Excursion boats, barges, tugboats, lighters and all manner of other watercraft plied the waters in abundance.

Today, passenger ships, essentially driven out of business by jet aircraft, have been replaced by vacation cruise ships – the newest so large they would make the Titanic seem tiny by comparison. Freight now arrives in large containers to new terminals in New Jersey, Brooklyn and Staten Island where there's more upland area to handle the containers. With the exception of the Staten Island Ferry, passenger ferries disappeared in the '60s, only to be reinvented in the late '80s as the very tunnels and bridges that caused their demise became jammed with traffic. Tugs and barges remain busy, their methods virtually unchanged over time. And the new working waterfront now hosts marinas, mega yachts and kayak facilities as well as dinner, sightseeing and party boats.

New York Harbor is still among the largest and busiest in the nation, outranked only by LA and Long Beach. From cars to cocoa beans to consumer items of all shapes and sizes, millions of residents of the Atlantic Coast rely heavily on water transport hosted by the great harbor of New York and New Jersey. The Working Harbor Committee exists to inform the public of the past and continuing importance of this magnificent harbor.





Container ship and tug









Working Harbor Committee
A New York State Not for Profit Organization

EIN #: 20-3396037
NYCharities registration #: 40-55-88


©Copyright 2009/2010 Working Harbor Committee