When Life Gives You Lemons, or a Lack of Parking, Make Lemonade with Lady Liberty

As is tradition in our home, last Friday, I took Fulton to NYC for his 11th birthday present. …at least that was the plan. Honestly, I’ve been worried about this trip ever since Fulton turned 10. I wanted him to experience all the fun, wonder, and excitement his older siblings had on their trips, but I knew it would require a fresh round of planning thanks to the wonderful 450lb wheelchair that moves him around.

After scheduling, and rescheduling several times due to illness and a broken powerchair, the day was set and Byron was picked to tag along. We planned to drive up to Staten Island, take the ferry over to lower Manhattan, hit a few sites (including two comic book shops), eat, take the ferry back whilst enjoying a view of the Statue of Liberty, and drive home- easy peasy! WHAT COULD GO WRONG?!?

Well, unfortunately all the people who told me how easy it was to take the ferry into NYC didn’t need to park and unload from an oversized handicap van. The only open air lot was tiny and full, and all the other nearby parking was garages for vehicles under 7ft tall. Google Maps didn’t provide any other lots close enough and I tried to find some in the city, but again, open air lots for oversized vehicles were hard to find and it was difficult to determine if they could indeed accommodate us. I didn’t want to drive into the city and continue circling around looking for parking.

I had tried so hard to avoid the uncertainty of the NYC train system (notorious for out of order elevators at “accessible” stops) but here I was, at only my first destination, and all my plans had already fallen apart. I hadn’t avoided stress and uncertainty after all!

Before Fulton (and Teddy) I already considered myself a pretty organized person, but planning anything with them (travel, visiting people’s homes, attending an event, etc.) requires so much extra work and forethought that I’ve learned to become the most extreme Type A planner before attempting anything. Forgetting important medical equipment, or showing up somewhere and not being able to get in or park stresses me out. With my typical kids, I freak out when things don’t go as planned, but I can recalibrate and figure something out. But when things go awry and Fulton or Teddy are involved it can be difficult or even impossible to quickly come up with a new plan or solution. I’d like to say I handle these instances with grace and poise, but, as Byron and Fulton can attest, that is not usually the case.

After much frustration and anger (mostly at myself for my obvious lack of planning- why didn’t I do more research into parking????) I took us on a quick trip up to Jersey City where we unloaded at Liberty State Park (WITH SO MUCH PARKING!!!). There we got tickets for the wheelchair accessible ferry that takes visitors to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty (on Liberty Island). I knew the ferry also went to NYC, and so I hoped that we could perhaps take it over to the city and then come back that way.

However, if you get on in New Jersey and unload in NYC, you either need to buy another ticket for the ferry to get back to NJ, or you need to take another ferry service that stops at Liberty State Park. The ferry we had tickets for stopped running around 4:30. The other ferry service remained running until 8:30 p.m. but even after checking with the service to determine if their boats were power wheelchair accessible, I decided I couldn’t risk getting over to NYC, attempt to get home after 4:30 and then learn the other ferry service’s boats couldn’t accommodate Fulton’s chair (despite what “the boss” on the phone said). We’d be stuck in NYC and getting back to Jersey City would be a nightmare. I’d had enough uncertainty for one day, and so, after discussing things with Fulton, we decided to just take our time enjoying Ellis Island and Liberty Island before heading home.

Mind you, Fulton (and Byron) were not at all stressed about the days events. Sure, Fulton wanted to get into the city, but once we were unloaded from the van and he was able to drive around he was happy. I apologized for things not going as planned, and for my own shortcomings in planning and then becoming stressed out as we tried to figure out another course of action. I promised a meal on Liberty Island, souvenirs, and a return trip to the city at some future date. “Like, on Monday?” Fulton asked. “NO.” I replied. “Maybe in the spring, and maybe we’ll even try the train. It’s can’t be any more stressful than today was.”

Once we had a new plan that Fulton was happy with I could finally relax and enjoy our day together. Fulton and Byron are probably my most easy going, roll-with-it kids, so if we had to have problems these were the two who would be the most forgiving of the situation (and of me I’d hoped). The weather was cool and cloudy but the rain held off, and while there were some slights waves, the ferry ride was enjoyable and gave a great view of the Manhattan skyline and statue. The crew was extremely helpful with making sure Fulton got on and off safely.

We did a tour through Ellis island, the second floor of which (the receiving room) is basically one large open space perfect for a speeding powerchair. Byron and I both would’ve loved more time to read some of the exhibits but Fulton wanted to get to the statue, so we travelled to Liberty Island.

It was nearing the end of the day, so there weren’t too many folks around which is also nice for a kid who wants to stretch his legs and drive fast. We purchased over-priced items in the gift shop and a meal in the cafeteria. We toured the museum and walked around the statute, snapping lots of smiling pictures which served as a good reminder to myself that even when things don’t go as plan, in fact when they send you in an altogether different direction entirely, they can still turn out not just bearable, but good- fun and enjoyable even!

As we grabbed one of the last ferries back to NJ, Fulton admitted his fatigue and eagerness to head home. Traffic was no worse than expected and he was happy as he retold the details of our day to everyone once we walked in the door. It was a successful day as far as he was concerned so I was happy. ( I still mixed myself up a stiff drink, but it only added to my already happy feeling while managing to dull the remaining feelings of failure and inadequacy I nursed over the parking snafu.)

Honestly I don’t know when we’ll make our return visit. Hopefully well in advance of Teddy’s 11th birthday. And maybe I will be able to convince Tony to take him. We’ll see.

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  1. I can’t believe you had such a hard time finding handicapped van parking! Isn’t it the law to have a certain percentage of the parking spots in any lot be accessible? Glad you managed to have a good time, anyway, and definitely make Tony do it next time. You’ve earned it!

    1. There were quite a few handicap spots, even several van unloading ones, in the open air lot closest to the ferry. However, they were all taken. And I’m sure the garages had accessible spots too, we just couldn’t fit in them to find out.

  2. If you need help scouting a future trip, I am a local resource and willing to help. I also like Rome2rio.com to look at all transport options, and cost. MTA also typically lists the elevator access and closures at any given stop. There are a lot of options the involve ferries or light rail if you want to park in NJ and get to NYC.

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