A few years ago I stumbled upon this article about Governors Island in the New York Times. It started a bit of an obsession. I’m not sure if it was the sheer beauty of the photographs or the fact that there was this island oasis so close to the city that caught my attention. Either way I was hooked and Governors Island became a must see stop years before I had considered moving here.
I can say proudly, after many years, I can now cross it off my travel list.
Governors Island is amazing. There aren’t many places you can go in New York City, let alone the US, where cars are generally forbidden. Where you get beautiful views of the city. Where you’re surrounded by colonial style houses. The island, to put it bluntly, is awesome.
A brief history: Dating back as far as the American Revolution Governors Island was a military outpost. During the Civil War it was used by the Union to house Confederate prisoners. In the 1960s the Coast Guard took ownership of the island and established a residential community, the homes of which can still be seen today. In the 1990s, however, the residential community was moved after the Coast Guard relocated. Until this point the island had been closed to the public. By 2003, however, parts of the island were recognized as a national monument and much of the land was “given” to the people of New York.¹
Over the past couple years they’ve been transforming it bit by bit to make it more of a destination. If what I saw the other week is any indication they’re doing a good job. A grove of hammocks–yes those things that hang from trees and are designed for old men to fall asleep in–couldn’t be any cooler. Playgrounds are enticing enough that full grown adults can be found staring helplessly wishing they could climb the jungle gym too. They’ve kept the colonial style buildings. They aren’t tearing it down to build something new, they’re simply enhancing what was there. As I read somewhere–and I honestly can’t remember where–it’s on its way to becoming a park designed by and made for New Yorkers. It feels like a getaway. There are moments when you’re on the island you forget you’re in New York. You forget that you’re just a quick ferry ride way from the noise and the cars.