Let the river run, let all the dreamers, wake the nation.Lyrics from Let the River Run by Carly Simon, which features on the soundtrack of 1988 film Working Girl
The Staten Island Ferry is one of the US’s busiest ferry routes, shuttling thousands of people across the Upper New York Bay every day. It is also one of New York City’s best attractions, delighting tourists with its free views of the New York skyline.
And it is a bar and restaurant too. Its offering might not be as sophisticated as some in the city, but over the years it has served up plenty of New York staples: beer, pizza, hot dogs, bagels and coffee.
These days he no doubt prefers some of the city’s more upmarket spots, but young Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York and now presidential candidate, used to take dates there, according to the New York Times. “You’d get a six-pack of beer, a pizza, and you’d sit outside,” he told the paper in 2013. “It was really romantic.”
The ferry and its bar also played an important part in the story of another classic New York character: Working Girl’s Tess McGill. The 1988 film relates the fight of Staten Island ferry commuter Tess for professional recognition and success in the New York finance world.
The film’s famous opening features shots of the ferry in action soundtracked by Let the River Run, Carly Simon’s Oscar, Grammy and Golden Globe-winning song that she wrote for the film.
We are then quickly introduced to Tess, drinking coffee and being presented with a birthday cupcake by best buddy Cynthia. A little later Tess, who has a business degree but cannot find a way out of her administrative role at her Wall Street investment bank, is shown working diligently through a bundle of notes on the ferry as she heads home.
The ferry and its bar go on to pop up at key moments in the film. Tess is shown drinking a Coke on deck after treacherous boss Katharine steals her investment idea. She watches the ferry cross the river from Katharine’s corner office after discovering her boyfriend with another woman.
Tess finally overcomes these difficulties, and others she faces during the film, to bag her own trading role. The film ends with a repeat of Let The River Run as the camera pans out from Tess’s new office to the New York skyline.
This closing montage eventually includes the river and the ferry too, which has come to symbolise Tess’s journey from Staten Island secretary to Manhattan investment professional.
The no-charge transportation service, shown repeatedly in the film as an egalitarian space dishing up simple food and drink alongside a spectacularly inspiring view, seems the perfect embodiment of the American Dream, New York-style.
The Staten Island ferry featured more recently in another fairytale of ambitious career women navigating life and love in New York. In Sex and the City season 3 episode “Where There’s Smoke…” the foursome take a trip on the ferry for an evening on Staten Island when Carrie is asked to help judge the finalists in a fireman calendar competition.
Samantha manages to seduce a much younger firefighter, but with rather embarrassing results. Meanwhile Carrie attracts the attention of politician Bill Kelley. She dates him for a number of weeks, but things soon end as being a “politician’s wife” – and other more exotic demands of the relationship – end up being too much for her.
The Staten Island Ferry continues to run faithfully between Staten Island and Manhattan every half an hour or more pretty much every day. Food and drinks are still available, even stretching to craft beer and protein bars these days.
Reviews of the cafe are mixed, however, with some customers reporting overpriced drinks and even, in one worrying case, mouldy food. But the ferry’s world-famous view of New York’s financial temples remains just as fresh and exhilarating as ever, and still available to anyone for free.
Staten Island Ferry commuters “know that life in New York might chew them up and spit them out, but it’s worth a shot”.From a 2018 HuffPost article on the ferry