Novelty Quest: The Willy Wall

Honorable William Wall aka Willy Wall by Caroline WilsonThis is the first post in a series exploring novel experiences in the area—because do you ever feel more alive than when you’re trying something new? It’s by Caroline Wilson Kaufman, a writer in the beauty industry who lives in Tribeca.

Nothing makes me appreciate Manhattan like stepping off of it—and in this case, onto The Honorable William Wall, a floating clubhouse and bar in the middle of New York Harbor.

Getting there had just enough complexity to make it an adventure. Having scoped out the weather for the week, I made a ferry reservation online for a clear Wednesday evening. The 6:45 p.m. ferry—the last ticketed one of the day, which I nearly missed—left from the terminal at Vesey Street, and arrived 10 minutes later at Warren Street Pier in Jersey City. There I waited for a second boat, a bright red launch called Big Toot, for the second leg. (Both are covered in the $20 ticket.) Passengers squeezed in shoulder-to-shoulder, as Bob Marley on the radio loosened up the button-down crowd.

Big Toot by Carolin WIlsonSeeing the Willy Wall, as it’s known, come into view for the first time is a surprise—you don’t expect to find a party in full-swing in the middle of New York Harbor. The lower deck holds a members-only meeting room, with upholstered armchairs, backgammon boards, and awards on the wall. The top deck has what most of us had come for: the bar and the views.

Skyline as seen from Willy Wall by Caroline WilsonManhattan was gleaming. Pleasure boaters and passenger ferries slipped past while a competitive team practiced close enough to watch the sailors work the rigging. The views are fantastic, but the footing is unsteady. I clutched the handrails for the first few minutes, while my $10 glass of rosé sloshed around with the choppy harbor. Once I got the hang of walking, I moved around the barge, to check out the revelers and the views.

Interior of Willy Wall by Caroline WilsonThe crowd was laid-back and happy. The drinks flowed. One big group was celebrating a birthday, another was a financial start-up company’s happy hour (complete with wristbands), and a few couples hung out in the corners. While the nautical theme was pervasive, I noticed only a couple obvious sailing aficionados.

Departing the Willy Wall by Caroline WilsonAs the sky turned dark, most of us squeezed onto the last ferry home. Back on the Big Toot, I found myself next to Michael Fortenbaugh, Commodore of Manhattan Yacht Club and longtime Battery Park City resident, who recently relocated to the shores of Jersey City, after the club lost management of North Cove Marina. (That’s why Willy Wall visitors first have to go to Jersey City.) When I asked where he got the idea for a floating clubhouse, Michael said that the idea dated from the late ’90s, when the Willy Wall was intended as a platform for watching sailing races. “But we had no idea how beautiful it would be,” he said.

The ferry between Warren Street and Battery Park City had stopped running, leaving me with a walk across Jersey City to Paulus Hook, where I caught the plush Goldman Sachs ferry ($6). I didn’t get home until well after dark, which hadn’t exactly been the plan, but the final ferry ride did afford me an unmatched view of Lower Manhattan lighting up the water and night sky.

Night skyline as seen from Jersey City by Caroline WilsonUPDATE: After allowing five comments from supporters of the Willy Wall, I stopped approving them. We get it, you like the place. Thanks. —Ed.

5 Comments

  1. Thanks Caroline for writing about the Honorable William Wall and letting all our friends in Tribeca know that we are open and worth the trip! The summer has been great so far. The rose is flying off the shelves. So please come visit again soon!

  2. LOVE the Honorable William Wall! Also a TriBeCa resident and can’t think of a more unique spot! THE BEST

  3. Love this article! I’ve also had many great times with friends on the Willy Wall! The views of Manhattan and the experience are unbeatable. It’s one of those “hidden gems” that isn’t so hidden anymore:)

  4. One of New York (and New Jersey’s) most unique experiences.

  5. The Willy Wall is an awesome place to get drinks and watch the sunset. I’m always blown away by the epic views of Manhattan.

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