USS New York, the Navy's newest weapon in the war on terror, sailed off yesterday morning on its maiden voyage to the Big Apple.
A Mississippi riverboat played a calliope version of "New York, New York," and hundreds of flag-waving onlookers cheered as the just-finished vessel made its way past New Orleans' French Quarter and into the Gulf of Mexico.
With a bow forged of steel from the wreckage of the Twin Towers, the New York is a floating symbol of those who perished on Sept. 11.
It is also a warship, an amphibious landing dock platform, which can deliver an entire Marine battalion to the scene of counterterrorism operations around the world.
"We've all been anxious to finally get going," Cmdr. Curtis Jones, the ship's captain, told The Post.
Getting out of Louisiana wasn't easy, however.
Four tugboats performed an intricate set of maneuvers to pull the warship from the dock at the New Orleans-area shipyard and turn it 180 degrees toward the Gulf of Mexico.
An armed Coast Guard speedboat and a helicopter flying overhead guarded the vessel. The ship will sail through the Gulf and around Florida before turning north to New York.
In order to make it under the Huey Long Bridge, Jones ordered the ship to be lowered in the water.
By filling the New York's ballast tanks, the ship was able to submerge enough to clear the bridge with 5 feet to spare.
The ship's builders beamed with pride as the New York passed.
"It's like raising a kid," project manager Doug Lounsberry said. "We're sending this one off to college. But after they leave, they remain near and dear to your heart."
Over the next 10 days, the 361-member crew will perform a series of training exercises, including man-overboard drills. They will practice having helicopters take off and land, in order to get the flight deck certified, and they will also fire the New York's guns for the first time, Jones said.
The crew will stop in Norfolk, Va., for a week before completing the journey to Manhattan's West Side piers on Nov. 2.
"We've all been thinking about what it's going to be like to come in to the harbor that day," Jones said. "We all gave different notions about it and see different meanings, but we intend to mark our arrival and salute as we pass the World Trade Center site."
Like roughly 10 percent of his crew, Jones, a native of upstate Binghamton, hails from New York state.
"I still have a New York driver's license, and I am still a resident," he said. "Professionally, this is a dream come true."
The New York will pull into Pier 88, right next to the USS Intrepid museum. On Nov. 7. The commissioning ceremony will be held at Pier 86.
The crew will remain in the city through Veteran's Day before heading back to base in Norfolk on Nov. 12.