We finally made it back to the Ferry Terminal, and had another one of those defining moments. The entrance ramp where buses would normally pull in was blocked off by some buses and dump trucks parked in a staggered pattern. If any bus or truck wanted in, they would slowly have to maneuver in a zigzag pattern, making it difficult for someone to ram their way in with a truck bomb. There were also policemen and transit workers out with the mirrors used to search the undersides of the vehicles. Anything coming in was being searched for bombs.
This is a photo of the Ferry complex on Staten Island that I found on the web. It is an older picture, for the parking lot on the right is where the ballpark is now. The ramp where they had the barricades set up is the curved roadway on the left. The dark objects in the middle are long bus lanes, with overhang waiting areas, where you could wait for a particular bus.
There weren’t that many people walking through. I went up to one of the policemen, recounted The Story, and asked what was the best way to Jersey, so we could get back to Ohio. He said that, as far as he knew, there were no buses to Jersey. However, he had come to work past the Bayonne Bridge, and it was open and there were people walking across. That might be the best way to get to Jersey. I asked, once we got to Bayonne, were there buses or trains we could take? He said that would be no problem.
We went it to the Ferry Terminal, and went to the bus ticketing window. After we found out the cop was right (there are no buses to New Jersey) we asked what bus route would get us to the Bayonne Bridge. A route went right along the waterfront and under the bridge, we were told, so I bought six tickets – if we found out the bridge was closed or that we couldn’t walk across, I wanted to be able to get back to the Terminal easily. We found which bus pier had our bus, waited five or ten minutes, and off we went.
In one respect, the bus ride was pleasant. The bus was clean and the air conditioning felt very good (every New York bus and subway, plus all the New Jersey trains and buses, were in superb shape.) However, a number of bad thoughts started to intrude. The ride (in green on the map) was along the main road that followed the Kill Van Kull, the waterway that separated Staten Island from New Jersey. After a brief ride through a residential area, we soon entered a stretch that was populated mostly by scrap metal yards. We hadn’t really seen any really nice areas of Staten Island, but this was probably the worst. If you see the movie “Analyze This” with Billy Crystal and Robert DiNiro, the shoot-out in the junk yard was around here, for you can see the Bayonne Bridge in the background.
The second bad thought – we were headed for a big bridge. My wife does not like big bridges, and will go far out of her way to avoid driving over one. And now we were headed for a big one that we were going to walk. On Saturday, from the Newark Airport terminal, I had noticed a large steel arch bridge, like the Sydney Harbor Bridge, across the field and not far away. That was probably the Bayonne Bridge.
Even if we made it across, we would be coming down into Bayonne, New Jersey. I really had no distinct impressions of Bayonne that were separate from Jersey City, Newark, or other inner city parts of New Jersey, but what impressions I did have weren’t good. I didn’t know if the other side of the bridge had factories, refineries, slums, projects, or what.
Finally, the bridge came into view – and it was a big one. According to the Port Authority web site, it is 5,780 feet long, 150 feet above the water in mid-span, and the arch span is 1675 feet. The bus was down at sea level, too, so the bridge was far above. There was a bus stop almost right under the bridge (I had the driver point out where we could catch a return trip – I was always worried about keeping our retreat options open) and we got out. We could see traffic and pedestrians on the bridge, so we would be able to go across. I asked Sharon and Rachel if they could do it, and they both said yes. (Actually it was more like “What other choice do we have to get off this island?”)
To get on to the bridge, we would have to go inland up a fairly steep hill that ran alongside the bridge. It was getting warm, and it was quite sunny, making it a fairly tough walk up the hill (I’m still in my suit and dress shoes, carrying a briefcase with a laptop computer).
The top picture of the bridge was taken by me, from the bus stop. The bottom picture was one I got from the Port Authority website. You can faintly see the Manhattan skyline, including the World Trade Center, at the top of that picture.
Copyright 2001-2003, Bruce Kratofil