Kareem Holmes Alongside His Wife and Son Own the Only Nautical Black-Owned Business in New York City

Kareem Holmes owns Big City Tourism, New York City’s only nautical Black-owned business. 

Holmes’s vessel, the Franklin D. Roosevelt, takes patrons through New York City’s Hudson and East River tours. 

“If a person registers for a company, LLC corporation, or sole proprietorship as a ticket-selling business, they get a license to buy, sell, and trade tickets in a public space throughout New York City,” he said in an interview with The Amsterdam News. “Then there’s tour guides. You can acquire any one of these licenses down at the [NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection; DCWP]. I knew it would be great for my community.” 

Holmes owns and operates Big City Tourism alongside his wife and son. The family-owned business has a mostly Black and Brown staff. Holmes told The Amsterdam News that his experience growing up in New York City played a role in Big City Tourism, “allowing guests to engage with not only the city but also the people who live there,” The Amsterdam News wrote.

Raised in the Lower East Side’s Jacob Riss Houses, Holmes would stare at the East River from his bedroom window.

A formerly incarcerated individual, Holmes recreated his life upon his release. Holmes moved to New Jersey, where he invested in a taxi cab company. According to The Amsterdam News, this investment grew to become the startup money for Big City Tourism. 

“I realized the bottom level of tourism are immigrants and African Americans selling the tickets for these big companies, pushing all the money to the top, but [the companies] wouldn’t really give anything back,” he said to The Amsterdam News. “I knew there was a place we needed to have a Black-owned business, so I created Big City Tourism so we can have something fresh.”

He acquired the Franklin D. Roosevelt after an audition with NY Waterway. Big City Tourism’s debuted its Freedom Liberty Tour last year. The Free Liberty Tour travels from the Hudson River to under the Brooklyn Bridge before hitting Lady Liberty and Governor’s Island.  

“The Franklin D. Roosevelt is the most advanced ferry in our fleet and represents our vision of the future of the harbor,” Armand Pohan, NY Waterway’s chair, said to The Amsterdam News. “We are delighted to share that vision with a high-energy partner like Kareem, who is committed to bringing the sights and sounds of the harbor to visitors from all over the world. We immediately understood and admired what he and the Big City Tourism team set out to do, and we believe in their efforts to boost tourism as the region continues to bounce back from the pandemic.”

For anyone interested in booking a tour on Big City Tourism, visit or email




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