Located in the heart of New York Harbor and only eight minutes away from Manhattan and Brooklyn, Governors Island currently serves as a peaceful getaway from the hustle and bustle of the City. The Island, stretching 172-acres, is accessible by ferry from both Brooklyn and lower Manhattan and open to the public from May 1 to October 31. Whether you’re looking to spend the hour or spend the day, Governors Island is a beautiful retreat location and offers a plethora of activities for every age group.
The Island is now open for a unique development opportunity which can be learned about here.
From Noten Eylandt to Governors Island
The earliest record of settlers reaching Governors Island dates back to 1624. Rather than* braving the wilderness* that we know today as Manhattan, The Dutch West India Company opted to set up camp across the water on a 70-acre Island.
At the time, the Dutch settlers adopted the name that the Island’s natives, the Lenape tribe, created; “Noten Eylandt.”
About a decade after landing on Governors Island, Dutch West India Company’s director general Wouter Van Twiller purportedly purchased the Island from the Lenape for a string of beads, two ax heads and a handful of nails.
Twiller had also purchased several other islands in the area for real estate ventures and private use, however, only a year went by before the Dutch government took the Island back.
In 1664, the British captured the area and commenced a decade-long game of hot potato between themselves and the Dutch for control of the area, before the British finally gained exclusive control for their king.
In 1699 the British renamed the island “Governors Island” and stated that it was to be exclusively reserved for the benefit* and accommodation* of “His Majesty’s Governors.”
Contrary to the peaceful escape that it offers today, Governors Island has a very rich military history…
Throughout the American Revolution, Governors Island served as a handy military headquarters for the British until their forces withdrew from the area on November 25, otherwise known as “Evacuation Day.”
During the War of 1812, the Island’s fortifications prevented a British invasion and spared New York the fiery destiny that befell Washington, D.C.
During WWII, The First Army started their planning for D-Day on Governors Island; this invasion led to the American landing in Normandy, and liberation of Europe
The Island continued to prove itself as a useful military base for the US government throughout the Civil War, WWI and WWII; until budget constrictions and developments in military technology led to the Department of Defense announced its impending closure.
Late 20th Century & Early 2000’s
Governors Island was the backdrop for many historical events, including the relighting of the Statue of Liberty after her refurbishment by President Ronald Reagan. Reagan also held his final meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev on the Island, and in 1993 the UN utilized the Island to sponsor talks in efforts to restore democracy in Haiti.
The Island’s military role ended in 1995, and a year later, The New York City Landmark’s Preservation Commission.
designated the 92 acres north of Division Road as a Historic District.
In 2003, the federal government sold the Island to the people of the City and State of New York for a small cost. That same year, 4,000 visitors would enjoy guided tours between June and October, leading to the Island’s official opening to the public in 2006. The first 30 acres of new park opened to the public in May 2014, and eventually ferries began running from Brooklyn to the Island and a 2.2-mile promenade was opened to cyclists and pedestrians.
Things to Do
Lands that were once flat and bland now offers a myriad of activities and events for the entire family to partake in.
Accessible by ferry every day of the week, the Island is open to the public from Monday-Friday from 10am-6pm, and from 10am-7pm on the weekends! Bring your own food and enjoy a meal at one of the many picnic tables dispersed throughout the Island, reserve designated Grilling Stations, and enjoy a delicious array of food from either of the Islands two food courts. Stroll to the top of the Islands’ highest point to soak up breathtaking views of the Freedom Tower and the Statue of Liberty. Nap in Hammock Grove. Start a pickup game on the Play Lawn. The Island also offers programs from nearly 70 cultural and arts organizations!
The island offers services for non-English speakers, indoor restrooms, and wheelchair accessible ferries, grounds, and restrooms. Only working dogs are permitted and children under 14 are expected to be accompanied by an adult at all times. Catch-and-release fishing is permitted with a valid NYS fishing license.
Whether you’ve recently moved to NYC or are a long-time resident, Shleppers knows that a trip to Governors Island is a must addition to your to-do list!