The East River, which borders Manhattan on the east, is actually a tidal inlet from Long Island Sound. Like the Hudson River, the East River has been important to the city in its development as a commercial center. This is represented in the ships you will see at the South Street Seaport stop of the New York Party Shuttle tour. The Peking as well as the other boats seen there are examples of the ships that once filled the waters of the harbor, bringing goods to and from the city.
Until after the Civil War the East River handled much of the trade because it was less often obstructed by ice floes. Around the thriving waterfront grew the booming cities on each shore. As the city expanded the East River became increasingly important in the industry of the city. Ships brought goods from around the world, including sugar cane, which was refined at the huge refineries built along the East River waterfront. Refining sugar was once one of New York’s largest industry. The Domino Sugar factory, visible next to the Williamsburg bridge on the Brooklyn side was first erected in 1857.
Today the river remains a conduit for trade. The eight bridges over it and the thirteen tunnels under it provide an important connection between Manhattan and Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. The beauty of the East River can be enjoyed on the decks of the South Street Seaport, or at the various small parks along its Manhattan side. Many believe that the view across the East River from the Promenade in Brooklyn Heights is the most beautiful view available.