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North River (Hudson River)

North River in red, if defined as portion between New Jersey and Manhattan.
Looking south from atop the Hudson Palisades

North River is an alternate name for the southernmost portion of the Hudson River in the vicinity of New York City and northeastern New Jersey in the United States.[1][2][3][4][5][6] The colonial name for the entire Hudson was given to it by the Dutch in the early seventeenth century, the term fell out of general use for most of the river's 300+ mile course during the early 1900s.[7] However it still retains currency as an alternate or additional name among local mariners and others[8][9][10] as well as appearing on some nautical charts[11] and maps. The term is used for infrastructure on and under the river, such as the North River piers, North River Tunnels, and the North River Wastewater Treatment Plant.

At different times "North River" has referred to the entire Hudson; the approximate 160-mile portion of the Hudson below its confluence with the Mohawk River, which is under tidal influence; the portion of it running between Manhattan and New Jersey; and/or just the short length flowing between Lower Manhattan and Hudson County, New Jersey. Its history is strongly connected to New York Harbor's shipping industry, which shifted primarily to Port Newark in the mid-20th century due to the construction of the Holland Tunnel and other river crossings and the advent of containerization.[12]

The names for the lower portion of the river appear to have remained interchangeable for centuries. In 1909, construction of two tunnels projects was under way: one called the North River Tunnels, the other, the Hudson Tubes. That year the Hudson-Fulton Celebration, commemorating the first European to record navigating the river, Henry Hudson, and the first man to use paddle steamer named the North River Steamboat to sail up it, Robert Fulton, was celebrated, leading to controversy over what the waterway should be called.[13][14][15]


  • Origin of the name and early usage 1
    • "North River" on maps 1.1
  • North River piers 2
    • Historical and current use 2.1
    • Railroads and ferries 2.2
  • Fixed crossings 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6

Origin of the name and early usage

Revolutionary-era map using both names

The origin of the name North River is generally attributed to the Dutch.[16] In describing the major rivers in the New Netherland colony, they called what is now the Hudson the North River, the Connecticut the Fresh River, and the Delaware the South River.[17] Another theory is that the "North" River and "East" River were so named for the direction of travel they permitted once having entered the Upper New York Bay.[18]

In 1808 the Secretary of the Treasury, Albert Gallatin, issued his report of proposed locations for transportation and communication internal improvements of national importance. The North River figures prominently among his proposals as the best route toward western and northern lands; similar routes were chosen for the Erie Canal and other early canals built by the state of New York. He notes the following in reference to the North and Hudson Rivers:[19]

"What is called the North River is a narrow and long bay, which in its northwardly course from the harbor of New York breaks through or turns all the mountains, affording a tide navigation for vessels of eighty tons to Albany and Troy, one hundred and sixty miles above New York. This peculiarity distinguishes the North River from all the other bays and rivers of the United States. The tide in no other ascends higher than the granite ridge or comes within thirty miles of the Blue Ridge or eastern chain of mountains. In the North River it breaks through the Blue Ridge at West Point and ascends above the eastern termination of the Catskill or great western chain. "A few miles above Troy, and the head of the tide, the Hudson from the north and the Mohawk from the west unite their waters and form the North River. The Hudson in its course upwards approaches the waters of Lake Champlain, and the Mohawk those of Lake Ontario."

"North River" on maps

North River on a 1997 Hagstrom Map of Manhattan, sited between Hudson County, New Jersey and Lower Manhattan

Hagstrom Maps, formerly the leading mapmaker in the New York metropolitan area, has labeled all or part of the Hudson adjacent to Manhattan as "North River" on several of its maps. For instance, on a 1997 Hagstrom Map of Manhattan, the stretch of river between Hudson County, New Jersey and Lower Manhattan (roughly corresponding to the location of the North River piers) was labeled "North River", with the label "Hudson River" used above Midtown Manhattan.

On a 2000 map of "Northern Approaches to New York City" (part of Hagstrom's New York [State] Road Map), the entire river adjacent to Manhattan was labeled "Hudson River (North River)", with just "Hudson River" (no parenthetical) appearing further north at Tappan Zee. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's current charts call the lower river the "Hudson",[20] and the United States Geological Survey lists "North River" as an alternative name of the Hudson River without qualifying it as any particular portion of the river.[21]

North River piers

Lower Manhattan circa 1931. East River piers are in the foreground; the North River and North River piers stretch off into the background.

Piers along the Hudson shore of Manhattan were formerly used for shipping and berthing ocean-going ships.[22] In shipping notices, they were designated as, for example, "Pier 14, North River". Most of the piers that once existed in lower Manhattan fell into disuse or were destroyed in the last half of the 20th century, although a number have been adapted to new uses. As with the river, the name "North River piers" has largely been supplanted by "Hudson River piers", or just by a pier and number, e.g., "Pier 54".

The remaining piers are Pier A at the Battery and piers ranging from Pier 25 at North Moore Street to Pier 99 at 59th Street. Many of these piers and the waterfront between them are part of the Hudson River Park which stretches from 59th Street to the Battery. The park, a joint project between New York City and New York State commenced in 1998, consists of several non-contiguous parcels of land and piers totaling 125 acres (0.51 km2), plus another 400 acres (1.6 km2) of the river itself.[23] Several piers are being rebuilt as part of the park project, with approximately 70% of the planned work complete as of early 2011.[24]

Piers above Pier 40 have addresses approximately that of Manhattan's numbered streets plus 40 – thus, for example North River Pier 86 is at West 46th Street.

Historical and current use

Chelsea Piers, with the Lusitania docked, circa 1910
Rebuilding of Pier 97
Javits Center, behind which is located New York Waterway's Midtown Ferry Terminal at Pier 79. The Weehawken Yards were at the base of the Hudson Palisades.
  • Pier A is a designated national and New York City landmark. The building on the pier dates to 1886, and was used by the city's Department of Docks, Harbor Police, and was later a fireboat station. The pier was closed and renovated from 1992 to November 2014, after which it reopened.
  • What little remained of Piers 1 through 21 were buried under landfill from the World Trade Center construction project in 1973 and turned into Battery Park City.
  • Pier 25 is a sports and docking facility at the foot of North Moore Street and part of Hudson River Park.[25]
  • Pier 34 is a pair of narrow piers which connect to a ventilation building for the Holland Tunnel.
  • Pier 40 contains various playing fields, long-term parking spaces and the Trapeze School of New York on the roof (during the summer).
  • Christopher Street Pier is part of Hudson River Park.
  • Pier 51 and 84 house two water-themed playgrounds, part of Hudson River Park.[26][27]
  • Pier 52 and 53, opposite Gansevoort Street, form the "Gansevoort Peninsula", created with landfill. This peninsula is home to the last vestige of what was once Thirteenth Avenue in Manhattan. The peninsula is currently a Sanitation Department storage and parking facility. At the end of Pier 53 is the FDNY's Marine 1 fireboat facility. The facility occupies a new building completed in 2011.[28][29]
  • Pier 55 is not in use. Plans arose in November 2014 for a new park designed by Heatherwick Studio, with estimates of the 2.3 acres (0.93 ha) park between $130 million[30] and $160 million.[31] Major backers include Barry Diller and Diane von Fürstenberg's joint foundation, which contributed $100 million to the project[30] with plans to give up to $130 million.[32] The city and state vowed to give $17 million and $18 million, respectively.[31] The park, a partnership between Diller and von Furstenberg's foundation, the city and state, and Hudson River Park Trust, would float completely above the water.[32] If the project is approved, construction would begin in 2015 and end in 2018 or 2019.[31]
  • Pier 57 was built to a unique concrete design in 1952 to replace a burned wooden structure. It has served as a shipping terminal and a bus depot, but has been vacant since 2003. It is currently under development as a commercial and retail complex anticipated to re-open in 2017.
  • The Chelsea Piers entertainment complex is located at piers 59 through 62, from West 17th to West 22nd Street. In the early 1900s, Chelsea Piers was used by the Cunard and White Star lines, and was the intended destination of the Titanic as well as the final berth of the Lusitania.
  • Pier 63 was the location of a barge formerly serving the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad, now situated at Pier 66a.
  • Pier 66 has a public boathouse and is also the home of Pier 66 Maritime.
  • Pier 79 is the West Midtown Ferry Terminal, used by NY Waterway while Pier 83 is used by Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises. The two companies played a prominent role in the rescue of passengers from US Airways Flight 1549, which made an emergency water landing on the Hudson in January 2009. Pier 79 connects to a Lincoln Tunnel vent shaft.
  • Pier 84 is a stop for New York Water Taxi and has a bicycle rental shop and other businesses serving primarily tourists.
  • Pier 86 at West 46th Street is home to the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum, the centerpiece of which is the USS Intrepid, an aircraft carrier that served from World War II to the Vietnam War. This pier once served as the passenger ship terminal for the United States Lines.
  • Piers 88 through 92 are part of the New York Passenger Ship Terminal, where a number of modern cruise ships and ocean liners dock. In 1942, the USS Lafayette (formerly SS Normandie) caught fire at Pier 88, remaining capsized there for a year.
  • Pier 94 was formerly part of the Passenger Ship Terminal, and now houses the "Unconvention Center", the second-largest exhibition hall in New York City.[33][34]
  • Pier 99 houses the West 59th Street Marine Transfer Station, used by the New York City Sanitation Department.

Railroads and ferries

Railroad and ferry terminals along the North River circa 1900

Prior to the opening of the North River Tunnels and the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad tubes in the early 1900s,[35] passengers and freight were required to cross the river for travel to points east. This led to an extensive network of intermodal terminals, railyards, ferry slips, docks, barges, and carfloats. The west shore of the river from the mid 19th to the mid 20th century was home to expansive facilities operated by competing railroads.[36] Most are now gone, allowing for public access to the waterfront at piers, parks, promenades and marinas along the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway. New ferry slips and terminals exclusively for pedestrian use have been built.

Fixed crossings

Crossing Carries Location Coordinates
Downtown Hudson Tubes Port Authority Trans-Hudson Exchange Place and World Trade Center
Holland Tunnel I-78
Route 139
Jersey City and Lower Manhattan
Uptown Hudson Tubes Port Authority Trans-Hudson Jersey City and Midtown Manhattan
North River Tunnels Amtrak
New Jersey Transit
Weehawken and Midtown Manhattan
(part of New York Tunnel Extension between North Bergen and Long Island City)
Lincoln Tunnel Route 495
I-495 / NY 495
Weehawken and Midtown Manhattan
George Washington Bridge I-95
US 1
US 9
US 46
Fort Lee and Upper Manhattan

The last crossing to be built was the south tube of the Lincoln Tunnel in 1957, but in 1962, another deck was added to the George Washington Bridge.[37] Since 2003, various proposals have been made to add a new train line. This includes an extension of the nearly-completed 7 Subway Extension, the canceled Access to the Region's Core, and the proposed Gateway Project.

See also


  1. ^ The Random House Dictionary (2009) ("Part of the Hudson River between NE New Jersey and SE New York.")
  2. ^ The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language,'Fourth Edition (2006) ("An estuary of the Hudson River between New Jersey and New York City flowing into Upper New York Bay.")
  3. ^ Webster's New World College Dictionary (2005) ("The lower course of the Hudson River, between New York City & NE N.J.")
  4. ^ The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (2009) ("An estuary of Hudson River between SE New York & NE New Jersey" )
  5. ^ Joint Report With Comprehensive Plan and Recommendations New York, New Jersey Port and Harbor Development Commission (1926)
  6. ^ McCarten, John (July 4, 1959). "Harbor Display". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2011-01-27. 
  7. ^ Steinhauer, Jennifer."F.Y.I",The New York Times, May 15, 1994. Accessed January 17, 2008. "The North River was the colonial name for the entire Hudson River, just as the Delaware was known as the South River. These names went out of use sometime early in the century, said Norman Brouwer, a historian at the South Street Seaport Museum."
  8. ^ North River Historic Ship Society
  9. ^ The Great North River Tugboat Race and Competition
  10. ^ North River Power Squadron
  11. ^ "SEA PADDLE NYC"
  12. ^ City in the Sky: The Rise and Fall of the World Trade Center - James Glanz, Eric Lipton - Google Boeken
  13. ^ Pettengill, G. T. (March 2, 1908), "Hudson, Not North River", The New York Times, retrieved 2011-01-25 
  14. ^ Cox, Edwin M. (October 6, 1909), "Hudson or North River", The New York Times, retrieved 2011-01-25 
  15. ^ "Hudson and not North River", The New York Times, September 26, 1909, retrieved 2011-01-25 
  16. ^ "The North River in New Netherland".  
  17. ^ Roberts, Sam. "Brooklyn Murders, Depression Love, a Glamorous Librarian", The New York Times, June 24, 2007. Accessed January 6, 2008. "You may even be directed to the sewage treatment plant in West Harlem, practically the last vestige of the name that, legend has it, the Dutch bestowed on the tidal estuary navigated by Henry Hudson to distinguish it from the South River, now known as the Delaware."
  18. ^ Dougherty, Steve. "MY MANHATTAN; Away From the Uproar, Before a Strong Wind", The New York Times, May 31, 2002. Accessed January 17, 2008. "'Because it's the river you sail to go north,' Captain Freitas explained. 'To sail east, to Long Island Sound, you would take the East River.'"
  19. ^ Portions of the Gallatin Report, 1808, Included in the Preliminary Report of the Inland Waterways Commission, 1908
  20. ^ Chart 12335
  21. ^ GNIS Detail - Hudson River
  22. ^ The Talk of the Town: Pier 1 : The New Yorker
  23. ^ Stewart, Barbara (June 1, 2000). "Hudson River Park On Restored Piers Approved By U.S". The New York Times. Retrieved May 20, 2010. 
  24. ^
  25. ^ Pier 25 | Hudson River Park
  26. ^ Chelsea Waterside Play Area | Hudson River Park
  27. ^ Pier 84 Play Area | Hudson River Park
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^ a b West, Melanie G. (17 November 2014). "Hudson River Park Gets $100 Million Launch". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 17 November 2014. 
  31. ^ a b c "Here's The Spectacular $165 Million Park Planned For The Hudson River". Gothamist. 17 November 2014. Retrieved 17 November 2014. 
  32. ^ a b "With Bold Park Plan, Mogul Hopes to Leave Mark on New York’s West Side". The New York Times. 17 November 2014. Retrieved 17 November 2014. 
  33. ^ Pier 94 New York—The Unconvention Center
  34. ^ Fried, Joseph P. (2009-08-13). "The City Hopes to Double the Size of Manhattan’s No. 2 Convention Center, in the West 50’s".  
  35. ^ *Open Pennsylvania Station To-night, The New York Times November 26, 1910 page 5
  36. ^ "GREAT RAILROADS AT WAR Fighting to Secure Lands on Jersey Shore". New York Times. December 15, 1889. Retrieved 2010-11-16. 
  37. ^ PANYNJ, "History Across the Hudson", The Star Ledger, retrieved 2011-03-15 

Further reading

  • A Guide to a Hudson River Park Walk from Battery Park to Riverside Park
  • Wired New York - Hudson River Piers
  • North River Historic Ship Society: Historic Vessels of New York Harbor

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