Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Summer 2012: Island Hopping, Governors Island 1

One of the biggest reasons I wanted to go Island Hopping has been hearing and reading about all the variety of very cool things that have been going on -- FOR FREE -- at Governors Island the last few years.

Located off the tip of lower Manhattan, Governors Island has been many things over the course of its history, mainly related to the defense of the Port and City of New York, but has been "semi-dormant" for the last few years as plans came together to utilize the land and buildings. For a few months over the last few years, the bulk of the Island has been open for exploration on the weekends - much to the delight of New Yorkers looking for new vistas and relatively uncrowded spaces to "staycation."

Trying to get my "posse" of girls together is tricky, given our varying schedules, but Amelia and Christine and I found one Saturday in late August to venture forth.

We met at Grand Central and then took the 1 down to South Ferry. The Battery Maritime terminal where the Governors Island ferry docks is steps from the Staten Island Ferry - so my earlier Island Hopping adventure was good reconnaissance for this trip. There are plans to update the waiting areas at the Maritime for Governors Island visitors as part of the ongoing redevelopments, but on our trip, it was pretty basic: vinyl signs, airport-esque queues leading up to bag searches by Parks Department people, and then in line out to the Ferry.

All Aboard!

A word about the wait in line for the FREE ferry: [Rant on.] What is up with people pushing and cutting lines? I mean, come on! There is one (1) door. We are all in the same line. We are going to the same place. The Ferry fits a LOT of people. The ride is like 10 minute--tops. The view of the Harbor is not going to change if you get there first by pushing people out of the way. If you DO, you will slow down the line. Just CHILL. Honestly. Some people are so rude. And that's saying something when I take mass transit! I can't even blame the out-of-towners. These were pushy outer-borough New Yorkers that were being obnoxious. For shame. [Rant over.]

Once on board the Ferry, which is much smaller than the Staten Island Ferry, we managed to get up on the top deck looking west toward Lady Liberty. There she is looking at Castle Williams on Governors and then Staten Island Ferry going past Ellis Island.

Christine and Amelia celebrating that we have arrived at our destination. Looking down from the top deck as all the passengers stream off the boat and onto the Island.

There are a few things to do right when you get off the Ferry. There's the Parks Department Book/Gift shop (which we missed both inbound and outbound - next time.) There are pop-up tents with information, maps, t-shirts, and directions. Signs show you the way to the bike rental areas, to the tram, and which way to the various walks, the Castle, the Governors Beach Club, and a few other things. We actually didn't do any of that either. I suggested that perhaps we should wait for the crowds to disperse, by exploring the Cooper-Hewitt exhibition at Building 110 - right next to the Ferry stop. (Future post.) After a lovely time getting some culture, we headed left into the interior of the Island and ended up near Nolan Park and some of the lovely old family and officer quarters.

Scattered throughout the Island are installations that are part of a cooperative effort with the Storm King Art Center, which are an interesting counterpoint to the old established trees, brick buildings/barracks, and various architectural components.

We wandered and wondered, stopping to play, eat, observe, shop, and - in my case - document. (More posts to follow). There was so much to see; we really only hit a tiny bit of the accessible areas. We will have to come back to do the sea walk around the entire periphery, see Castle Williams, rent one of these family bikes, or just come and scope out our spots to read, relax, and take in the views.

It's so fun to explore with Christine and Amelia. You never know what Amelia's going to say, (Did you know: She is her own action figure!) and they are both game when I have them pose like models at weird spots. Hey - let's read this sign! Hey look at that weathervane!

Just standing by the railing you can see so much of New York's maritime history float by. L: Out in the harbor, the past and present at the docks. R: Closer to shore, these poor kayakers weren't making much headway in moving in anything but circles. I wanted to shout directions, but then, I paddle in circles too. Just ask my father.

Don't miss this landmark - or the rock telling you it's a landmark.

As you can see, by mid-afternoon, the clouds had rolled in, so we headed back to the Big Island of Mannahatta and ended up doing more wandering. Look at that: The Freedom Tower is really starting to dominate the skyline - or are your eyes just drawn there like mine because of the twin ghosts of what once was?

My lovely lovely friends!

So that's a quick overview of the trip to Governors Island. Future posts will delve into what all we did in 5 very busy hours on shore.

Governors Island is open a few more weekends this year. Better hurry if you're going to make it. Maybe I'll see you there next year?

Governors Island National Monument's 2012 public access season goes until September 30th. The island will be open on Saturdays, Sundays, and Labor Day Monday for public access.

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