On the morning of June 9, 2013, city officials blew up a vacant apartment building that once housed Coast Guard families on Governors Island. The debris from Building 877 was used to help create land for 30 acres of new park that will open to the public for the first time this Saturday.
“We actually took all the debris, mashed it up and created fill,” said Leslie Koch, president of the Trust for Governors Island. “There is now a sports field where there was once a high-rise building.”
The new park, which was designed by landscape architecture firm West 8, features Hammock Grove, a 10-acre space that’s home to play areas, 1,500 new trees and 50 hammocks.
Visitors will also see Liggett Terrace, a six-acre plaza with plantings, seating, water features and public art. The remaining 14 acres belongs to the Play Lawn, which features two ball fields.
“We look forward to the best season yet on Governors Island,” said Susan Carey Dempsey, executive director of the Governors Island Alliance. “We invite everyone to come and kick off the new season by joining the Alliance at the Family Festival on Opening Day.”
Governors Island, a 172-acre island located a half-mile south of Manhattan, served as a military base for 200 years and was home to the U.S. Army and Coast Guard.
The island first opened to the general public in 2005. Since then, it has undergone major changes in its transformation into a mixed-use destination with large public spaces.
With the completion of the new park, approximately 125 acres of the island are now open to the public.
“You feel like you’ve gone on vacation without leaving New York,” Koch said. “For the price of a $2 round-trip ferry ride, you really feel like you’re on vacation. You have the best view of the Statue of Liberty.”
Last summer, the island was open for a total of 40 days and saw 399,000 visitors. Eighty-five percent of visitors live in the five boroughs, Koch said.
This year will be the first time in history that the island is open to the public seven days a week. A diverse calendar of events will give New Yorkers plenty of reasons to visit.
On June 14 and 15, The Hedgepig Ensemble Theater will perform a 15-minute version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet at Hammock Grove.
River to River, the annual arts festival in Lower Manhattan, will also have several performances on Governors Island between June 19 and June 29.
On July 26 and 27, The New York City Poetry Festival will take place on the island.
Koch said that bringing arts to Governor’s Island was always a priority.
“When I first started working here eight years ago, it was a really quiet place,” she said. We decided to make it New York’s shared place for art and play.”
Artists and organizations are invited to use the island’s historic buildings and green space free of charge as long as they create a program that’s free to the public.
Along with the new park and new programs, visitor favorites such as the Jazz Age Lawn Party, a 1920s-themed dance party, and a miniature golf course are both set to return.
Governors Island is open everyday from May 24 through Sept. 28. On weekdays, the Island is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. On weekends, Memorial Day and Labor Day, the Island is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. The Island will be open on July 4 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
On Opening Day, the Governors Island Alliance will host a family festival from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. with arts and crafts, performances and harbor education activities for kids.
A full calendar of events and the Governors Island ferry schedule are available at www.govisland.com.