The entire downtown would have been a ring of piers if not for Daniel Finn (1845-1910) who was a city magistrate and a police judge. He prevented piers from being put in Battery Park and if they had been installed, they'd most likely still be there today, as Pier A (1886) actually is.
The book 'Gangs of New York' is a fatiguing account of generations of criminals in Old New York. It's suspiciously excessive but it'd have you believe that all of lower Manhattan was a cavalcade of hoodlums all the way to 14th st.
At the South Street Seaport, both the Peking and the Ambrose lIghtship are open to the public ($5 last time I went). They have exhibits inside each boat with nautical maps, demonstrations of maritime life, and the history of the boats. The Peking, built in 1911 in Hamburg Germany, was a boy’s school in the UK in 1932, bought in ’74 for $165K, towed here by a Dutch boat and opened to the public in ’75.
I learned that the natural depth of New York Harbor is about 17 feet (5 m), but it was deepened over the years to about 24 feet (7 m) in 1880. In 1914 the Ambrose Channel became the main entrance to the Harbor, at 40 feet (12 m) deep and 2,000 feet (600 m) wide. During World War II it was dredged to 45 feet (14 m) depth to accommodate larger ships up to Panamas size. Currently the Corps of Engineers is contracting out deepening to 50 feet (15 m), to accommodate Post-Panama container vessels, which can pass through the Suez Canal as well.
I also learned that Charleston and the southern ports didn’t have the depth of NY so foreign ships with draft came here, not the South