Little Black Book

Take Me to the Rivers – Exploring NYC’s Waterways with the Man Luring You to Them

by Jeralyn Gerba
Party in the bow at Pilot. Photo courtesy of Crew.

NYC – If you can’t get yourself a boat, the next best thing is to get yourself a drink .... on a boat. This line of thinking has manifested in more than one award-winning NYC bar concept for Alex Pincus, an architect and restaurateur known for creating quirky, maritime-themed watering holes near the water, on the water, or in the water.

Along with his brother Miles, Pincus operates Tribeca's Pier 25 marina, home to flagship bar-on-a-boat Grand Banks, and the marina at Brooklyn's Pier 6, where a century-old schooner-turned oyster bar named Pilot rocks gently all summer long. Through Crew, their hospitality group, the pair also run Island Oyster (Governor's Island), Drift In (Chelsea), Holywater (Tribeca), and their latest, High Tide (Brooklyn Bridge Park).

The development of thousands of acres of NYC waterfront over the last several decades has created tremendous value for the people who live, work, and play here. New York Harbor is the cleanest it's been in a century. Gorgeous greenways are threaded with native plants, cyclists, and sun bathers. Revitalized piers offer more green space, playgrounds, sporting facilities, and waterfront dining experiences. The Pincus brothers have played their part in the boom — offering interesting and off-kilter spaces where drinkers can test out their sea legs (and impress out-of-town guests).

One beautiful fall Friday, after a round of oysters on the Grand Banks schooner, I hopped aboard the company Zodiac to check out the Pincus brothers' establishments — and to get reacquainted with the city's coastal environs. Life in their wake offers plenty of lobster rolls, ice cold beers, smart design details, and wild characters to engage with on a daily basis. The best perk of their biz, though, has to be commuting to all of these places by boat.

Louisiana-born and -bred with the certitude of a New Yorker and the laid-back vibe of a sailor, Pincus has become the go-to guy for executing seemingly far-fetched ideas on the water. NYC is a breeding ground for eccentrics, and the Pincus brothers are carving out their space among ship restoration obsessives, innovative restaurateurs, and romantics. Currently in the works is the refurbishment of an old FDNY fireboat — which, it almost goes without saying, will make a great bar.

Herewith, the Pincus-approved waterside spots for drinking, sailing, and viewing great sunsets.

There she is, Miss America. All photos by Jeralyn Gerba.
Pier 25 Marina.
But what else? Jet ski parking in New Jersey.
Pilot pit-stop.

The Stops

Grand Banks, Pier 25, Tribeca
A beautifully restored schooner with a horseshoe bar, table seating, and wild sunset views over the Hudson pays homage to the 19th-century oyster barges that once supplied New York City with a plethora of bivalves. Impress out-of-town guests, celebrate a summer Friday, or take yourself on a lunch date on a beautiful fall day.

Surf City Beach Bar, Morris Canal Basin, Jersey City, New Jersey
You could travel by car, light rail, PATH train. OR you can pull your boat (or jet ski?) right up to the 300-foot dock for an icy Coors Light and cheesy music.

Island Oyster, Governor's Island
The 172-acre island about 800 yards from the southern tip of Manhattan has become a somewhat ramshackle public experiment in community gathering. One of the more polished offerings on the island, this spacious outdoor watering hole on its perimeter offers ferry goers cocktails, sustainable oysters, a solid burger, and clear and unobstructed views of the island of Manhattan.

Drift In, Chelsea
Tiny, beach-y waterfront bar with lots of prime sunset seating.

Frying Pan, Chelsea
The O.G. barnacle-encrusted dive bar (and more!) on a historic old lightship docked in the Hudson River.

Honorable William Wall, Hudson River
Manhattan Yacht Club’s floating clubhouse just north of Ellis Island is the starting and finish line for sailboat races, but anyone can get tix and ferry aboard for summer drinks and sunsets.

Pilot, Pier 6, Brooklyn Heights
Brooklyn's answer to Grand Banks. Same charming atmosphere, seafood towers, and need for sea legs, but with killer views of Manhattan.

High Tide, Fulton Ferry Landing, Dumbo
The latest addition to the Crew empire offers light bites and cocktails on the water just south of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Willy Wall in the Hudson River.
Ye olde Frying Pan.
Waterside views of Little Island.

The Sites

Statue of Liberty, Liberty Island
She's a beauty.

Brooklyn Bridge Park, Dumbo, Brooklyn
A beautiful example of urban waterfront renewal, the park stretches along the East River from Dumbo, down under the Brooklyn Bridge, and through Brooklyn Heights. Beautifully landscaped paths lead to rolling hills, salt marshes, a vale, picnicking fields, an incredible carousel, and excellent people watching all year round.

Little Island, Pier 55, Chelsea
A new public park and amphitheater raising up on the water.

Chelsea Piers, Chelsea
Enormous sporting facility and spa with a sunbathing balcony on the river.

Trusty Zodiac: our boat for the day.
Back on dry land.

The Sails

NY Harbor Tours
Nice 90-minute and three-hour small group sightseeing rides on the water.

Sail Sunset
Private joyrides on a 37-foot sailboat.

Barton & Gray Mariner's Club
A day-boating club featuring captained and crewed Hinckley yachts.

Atlantic Yachting
Sailing school, summer camp program for kids, and sailboat charter. An early venture for the Pincus brothers, and though they no longer own the company, they still vouch for it.

Stay in The Big Apple

Is NYC’s Governors Island Shedding Its Tranquil Past for a Glitzy Future?
Fathom Guide to Brooklyn
The Reboot: What's New in NYC

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