Camp for troubled young adults

Fun, it turns out, feels better when it takes place near water.

And now the city's shoreline is lined with places to drink, skateboard, play pétanque, watch outdoor movies and learn aerial trapeze. Our tour of the new liquid city begins at the Battery Maritime Building, a lonely symphony in cast iron, steel and Guastavino tiles, from 1909.

Pier 11, at the end of Wall Street, serves the Brooklyn ferries, which are gradually crawling back from extinction.

Travel by water proved its worth on September 11, 2001, when boats of all kinds helped evacuate the stranded, and again in the aftermath, when the PATH train connecting Lower Manhattan to New Jersey was knocked out of service for a while.

At the other end of an eight-minute ferry ride, Governors Island is a maritime park unlike any other in the city, crouched low to the water yet close to the open sky.

On any given Sunday in summer, the island has the feel of an urban day camp.

And every member of those burgeoning millions craves a bit of friendly turf.

"Here are tier upon tier of hogsheads of sugar, perspiring molasses with the memory of the Cuban sun, and other hogsheads of old rum from Jamaica, beneath which the ground is greedily drinking precious oozings.The border of that sixth borough runs more than 500 miles, a shoreline more extensive and more varied than those of Seattle, Chicago, Portland and San Francisco combined. New York's shoreline has miles of beach, wetlands, gritty industrial stretches and a lengthening necklace of waterfront greenery.For 400 years, these generous, often tranquil waterways carried the material goods that fueled New York's fantastic growth.It's nothing much to look at now: a slightly claustrophobic intersection, presided over by Fraunces Tavern, the 18th-century hostelry built on a soggy "water lot." In the early 19th century, the long-vanished Tontine Coffee House, at the corner of Pearl and Wall Streets, functioned like Times Square, the Stock Exchange and Rockefeller Center rolled into one gracious neoclassical building.Everyone with a buck to spend or the craving to make one converged on the Tontine's modest porch.

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When the Coast Guard finally moved out in 1996, leaving a collection of gracious 19th-century brick structures, some slablike barracks from the 1950s and an abandoned Burger King, New Yorkers inherited 172 acres they barely knew existed and had no idea what to do with. Then the architects plowed that knowledge into an ambitious and spectacular but also freewheeling and improvisational landscape design.

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