The picture above, from August 16, 1908, is labelled “Race to Coney Island [life boats and swimmers, New York]”. There are two likely possibilities: one is that it is a race for both swimmers and rowboats and one group or the other or both is composed of lifeguards from Coney Island; the other, more likely, is that it’s a race for swimmers and the boats are life boats for them, to pick them up if they run into trouble. This is a route of something like 12 miles, down the south end of the East River, along the east side of the harbor, through the Narrows, and past Gravesend Bay to the Atlantic-facing beach at Coney Island. That’s not an impossible swim, certainly, but there can be strong currents along the whole route and the city was still dumping untreated sewage into the river and harbor in 1908. Also, there’s some bridge in the background of the picture.
Next up: October 27, 1910 was apparently a nasty day for a walk along the Battery seawall:
The building on the left is Pier A and the round building is Castle Clinton in its aquarium phase. The seawall and the adjacent promenade have been raised slightly in the last century, but not enough to keep you dry on a day like that. For a sense of the wind, look at the flags over the left side of Castle Clinton’s roof and the tree just to its right. I walk past here every week and breakers like this are not all that common. Another view from the same day:
Again , Pier A on the left with Castle Clinton in the middle. The original Whitehall Building at 17 Battery Place is just to the right of Castle Clinton, with the addition to the Whitehall building still in construction just behind it. To the right of it, 90 West Street is visible off in the distance, marking the Hudson shore further north, with Pier A marking the southern end of the river.