Governors Island used to feel like a New York secret, but it was a tough secret to keep. Though we may miss the days where it felt like we’d stumbled upon an overgrown idyll that fulfilled childhood dreams of having our own island, it’s time to admit that the Island is all grown up — and ready to host the masses of visitors expected to grace its shores this summer.
The city’s revamped star island opens to the public again on May 24th, and will now be open seven days a week, building on its weekend popularity from the last few years. Unless you catch a 10am or 11am ferry on weekends, the formerly free ferry is now $2, both Manhattan and Brooklyn. The Brooklyn ferry from Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6 will only be running weekends, Memorial Day and Labor Day, but the ferry from the Battery Maritime Building in Manhattan will ship put seven days a week. As usual, thefull list of events is extensive and includes offerings for kids, theatre buffs, art lovers, dance enthusiasts and the rest of us normal people.
With the first 30 (!) acres of brand-new park and public areas completed on the Island, there are even more reasons to visit, though we may not need any beyond picnicking, naps under shade trees, and art. Here’s the low down on three of the shiny new main spaces:
Liggett Terrace: This is a six-acre plaza furnished with plants, benches, fountains and art installations. It looks fantastic for walking off the corn dog you ate earlier.
Play Lawn: Exactly what it sounds like, and where most athletic events will take place. The Play Lawn features two natural turf fields for softball and baseball, with a total of 14 acres of play space for whatever game you want to play.
There are also a couple of updates to old favorites:
The sandy multi-purpose event space you’ve probably visited a time or two now has an official name: Governors Beach Club. It is the sister space to Beekman Beer Garden Beach Club and will be hosting concerts throughout the summer and serving up beer, hot dogs, and snacks. Also, they host weddings (attention ReBar couples!), birthdays and other private events.
Free bikes return to the island for your enjoyment in one-hour time blocks. With 30 new acres to explore, you’ll have to go back for a second bike tour after lunch.
Several of the installations will run all season long, and include these thought-provoking art and writing projects:
Let the beeps and buzzes of your smartphone fade as you indulge in the wonders of the analog. The Typewriter Project opens its first outpost on Governors Island: the city’s “tiniest writing den,” where visitors contribute to an ever-changing and citywide conversation by writing for a spell on a vintage typewriter. After you work your lyrical magic, each entry will be posted online for users to see. The directions given for finding the booth, fittingly, are unGoogleable: “look for the rustic, wooden booth…with a commanding view of the Statue of Liberty.” (May 24 – September 28, Historic District)
This summer, FIGMENT brings back its acclaimed interactive Sculpture Garden, artist-designed Minigolf Course and City of Dreams Pavilion for playing, thinking, and interacting. 2014’s Minigolf Course is based on the theme “New York City Now,” and is designed around artist submissions that are always a hole-in-one. (June 7 – September 21, Parade Ground)
Brooklyn ARTery fulfills our deep-seated need to buy artisanal stuff on summer weekends in New York, offering handbags, jewelry and accessories, food, housewares, and beauty products. On Saturdays from 2pm – 4pm they offer a free DIY arts and crafts drop-in class, and on Sundays at the same time, guests can stop by for samples of local artisanal sweet and savory snacks. (Nolan Park Building 10B)
2014 Season Highlights:
The Opening Day Family Festival – Arts and crafts, musical and theatrical performances, and harbor-education activities abound. (May 24, Colonels Row and Liggett Terrace, 1 PM-4 PM)
A game of vintage baseball is a great way to rest your legs while watching America’s favorite pastime the way it used to be played – in baggy yet somehow becoming uniforms, and sans ‘roids. (May 24 & 25, May 31, June 7, August 16, & August 30, Parade Ground, 11 AM)
Michael Arenella and His Dreamland Orchestra return with their block-buster Jazz Age Lawn Party – “a dream of the 1920s nestled right in the heart of New York Harbor!” This event is (jazz) hands down one of the best cultural experiences in New York, and unlike many large events, seems to be brimming with energy and well-mannered partygoers. The lawn party requires tickets and features nearly non-stop live music mixed with dance performances, dance instruction for the wannabe flappers and gents, games for all ages, and 1920’s inspired drinks, food, and clothing for purchase. (June 14 & 15, August 16 & 17, Colonels Row, 11am to 5pm)
Get your daily dose of literary culture via The Hedgepig Ensemble Theater’s “World’s Fastest Hamlet,” which will present Shakespeare’s classic in 15 minutes amid the trees and hammocks. (June 14 & 15 at 1pm, Hammock Grove)
The New York City Poetry Festival is a two-day festival that will include over 60 poetry organizations and hundreds of poets reading around the clock to celebrate NYC’s lively poetry community. A Vendor’s Village of local businesses and craft-makers marry nicely with the beer garden sponsored by Brooklyn Brewery. Open mic time and the Children’s Poetry Festival round out the offerings for this family-friendly event. (July 26 & 27, 11am to 5pm)
Rite of Summer presents “American and Argentine Sounds from Ives to Piazzolla” for your classical listening pleasure. (August 9, Colonels Row, 1pm and 3pm, featuring ROS Co-Founder & pianist Pam Goldberg, violinist Esther Noh, cellist Caitlin Sullivan and soprano Allison Charney)
Lots of lawn space calls for lots of bocce. Join RECESS for a day of fun competition as 32 creative organizations jockey for bocce victory on Colonel’s Row. Highlights include free bike rides, several bocce courts open to the public, food vendors, a beer and wine tent and tunes spun by DJs. (August 23, Colonels Row, 12pm to 5pm)
See six skilled pianists tickle the ivories as piano sextet Grand Band presents “A Bigger Picture.” The New York Times called the group “the Traveling Wilburys of the city’s new-music piano scene,” which is all you really need to know. Basically, if you miss the chance to see them in concert together, you’ll be kicking yourself years later. (September 6, Colonels Row, 1pm and 3pm, performed by Blair McMillen, Vicky Chow, David Friend, Paul Kerekes, Lisa Moore and Isabelle O’Connell)
Mü-Math, the Mobile Unit to promote Mathematical Thinking, returns to Governors Island for its third year in a row to fulfill the desires of the math-curious ages 7 and up. The unit features a dozen new mathematics investigations ranging from algebra to topology (if you know what that is, then this sounds like the place for you). (Saturdays, Sundays, holiday Mondays, 1pm – 6pm in Building 20, Nolan Park)
It seems there is mystery still on this ever-evolving isle, thanks to The Surprise House. The company behind the house, Surprise Industries, uses the science of surprise to help people embrace the unknown in their everyday life and work through the unexpected, which has incredible real-world applicability as anyone with a NYC landlord understands. I would tell you more but IT’S A SURPRISE. (August 16 – September 14, Building 6B)
And finally, something to look forward to for next year: Ground has been broken on The Hills, four man-made hills that are to be the “culminating feature” of the Island’s new park. Made of recycled construction and fill materials, The Hills will rise from 30 to 80 feet, and will provide fantastic views of the harbor, Lower Manhattan, and the Statue of Liberty. The Hills are slated for completion in 2015.