Thoughts From Places Spotlight: Liberty and Ellis Islands (2010)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

| | |

My Trip to Liberty and Ellis Islands during my trip to NYC!

Street Performer in Battery Park
After seeing Ground Zero on the second day of my first NYC trip, we went took a ferry to Liberty and Ellis Islands. My group and I were waiting in line to get onto the ferry and we came across a street performer who sang “You Are My Sunshine” and gave us wonderful advice such as “Be Responsible and get the best out of life.” He also told the girls of the group to “Enjoy living, invent something, don’t just become a dumb house wife, we have enough house wives in America already” and to the guys: “don’t marry a woman who has five babies and don’t know who the daddy is.” All in all, very sound advice coming from a man sporting bright yellow rain gear and a rainbow afro wig. As I listened to him sing and saw people stop and give him their spare change I couldn’t help but think about how he was going to forever be in my memory as the very first street performer I saw in the City. I thought about how there people like him all over NYC that are trying to make some money off their talents when they’ve hit the end of the road. About how people who live in New York probably don’t even notice him or people like him anymore because they’re all over, but that my group from Buffalo will never forget how we got to share in that unique experience of waiting for a ferry while talking to a man playing a ukulele in Battery Park. In retrospect, I wish I had asked him his name.

Standing at the base, looking up.
The ferry ride on the Miss Liberty was the one of the first times I was on a boat (it was when I discovered that I don’t get seasick). I really liked it. We had so much fun. Everyone was taking pictures of each other and the Manhattan Skyline and the Statue of Liberty as we got closer to the Island. Not just the kids in my group either because there were other travelers on the boat and as I stood there watching I was thinking about how amazing it was that all of the people on the boat were on it just to see a huge green statue. Everyone was excited to be so close to the Statue that represents America and the freedom she holds. The feeling was almost palpable. Being so close to the Statue of Liberty while on the Island was just very weird for me. I have seen the Statue almost every day on TV, in books or the mini versions on top of Buffalo’s Liberty Building but to actually stand at its base and stare up at the actual statue was just weird, I can’t really describe it in any other way. 

Other than seeing the actual Statue one of my favorite parts of being on the Island was seeing everyone else’s reactions to not only the Statue but the Manhattan Skyline as well. As a group we took photos in front of both, but as we were leaving the observatory area where they have the telescopes so you can see Manhattan closer I took a picture of strangers looking at the City.
Strangers looking at the Manhattan Skyline

The picture just makes me happy even though the weather is obviously miserable everyone is still smiling because of where they’re standing. (I regret that I did not get a photo of just me standing in front of the statue. I have a habit of making sure I document what everyone else is doing and forget to document what I was doing. Oh well, I won’t forget next time.)

The Registry Room at Ellis Island

We got back on the ferry which took us to Ellis Island. We only got to spend twenty minutes here because we had spent a little bit too much time on Liberty so I don’t remember much because we were so rushed. I took photos of everything I saw so that I could look at them closer later and I really regret that. I should have taken the time to really look at a few things instead of rushing everything because maybe I would remember it but I learned my lesson. Besides now I will have something to look forward to when I go back. I do remember standing in the Registry Room and imagining it as it was when my family went through there. It had to have had a lot more people in it and they must have been so nervous and excited. I also remember trying to the wall to see if I could find one of my family members. I documented every single thing I saw so that I could show my mom later because she has always wanted to go there to do genealogy research.

The Balloon the Clown of Battery Park made me!
And after all that rushing to make sure we kept to our schedule half of our group was forced to stay behind on Ellis Island because there wasn’t enough room on the ferry for all of us. This was perhaps my favorite part of the trip because, like the street performer we saw before getting on the ferry, this experience was unexpected and led to another unique experience. I was in the first group so we had to wait in Battery Park while we waited for the others to arrive. Luckily for us there was a clown there who made balloon animals for us while we waited (he wore a costume and a nose but no makeup, if he had worn makeup I probably wouldn’t have gone anywhere near him because clowns in makeup freak me out). He was ridiculously talented at balloon shaping. He made all the normal things like dogs and swords but he also made seriously complicated hats! He made me a heart with a small dog on it! Since meeting him I decided to learn how to make balloon animals and years later I still can’t figure out how he made that tiny dog go on that heart!

While in Battery Park we also saw living statues of Liberties, a live band, several vendors, and a wild turkey. I thought it was a bit strange to see a turkey in the middle of Manhattan but didn’t think much of it after that. It wasn’t until this past year, when looking through an entry for Battery Park in a travel book, that I realized that the turkey had a name and was in fact famous. Zelda the wild turkey has lived in Battery Park for at least 10 years and I was lucky enough to see her and not even realize that she was famous!

To read more from my trip to NYC click here