Governors Island is one of New York City’s great treasures, and during the summer it becomes one of my favorite parks in town, with a full schedule of festivals, concerts, and off-beat art exhibitions as well as plenty of space in which to walk or bike or picnic or play or read or doze or whatever. The setting is lovely; the views of Lower Manhattan, and the Statue of Liberty, and the Brooklyn industrial waterfront, are all spectacular.
And for residents of Lower Manhattan (FiDi, Battery Park City, Tribeca, City Hall area, etc.), or Brooklyn communities such as Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, and even DUMBO and Carroll Gardens, the free ferry ride, which leaves from the Battery Maritime Building on South Street, and from Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park (at the western terminus of Atlantic Avenue), couldn’t be easier. It’s like having a world-class, wonderfully unique park, if not exactly in your back yard, certainly close enough to make it part of your regular summer routine.
Anyway, the big news for anyone looking for NYC residents: last week the Landmark Preservation Commission unanimously approved plans for a $300 million makeover of several of the most popular areas of Governors Island. This will mean that Governors Island will be closed on weekdays all summer long–so, only Saturdays and Sundays this year–but judging from the plans and renderings, created by the urban design and landscape architecture firm West 8, it seems like it will definitely be worth it.
For example the Soissons Landing area, the new docking point of the from- and to-Manhattan ferries, is getting a complete makeover, highlighted design-wise by the “view-through” signage from the great Pentagram. Also new and sounding amazing: the completely redone terrace area in front of grand, historic Liggett Hall, which will feature a playful, labyrinthine interweaving of plantings and fountains and should become the “social heart” of the island.
Visitors to Governors Island will also appreciate changes such as newly-designed lighting by Suzan Tillotson, which promises to be moody and mysterious–Calla-lily-like lampposts, the Liggett Hall facade bathed in LED, “green gel” lights tucked away in the hedges–all tapering off as you approach the water, so as not disturb the nighttime skyline views.
Concrete curbs transform into benches and back again, and, via type and design, signify changes in the landscape. And maybe most exciting for a certain segment of Governors Island visitors: the Hammock Grove, in which a micro-forest of oak trees become perches for swaying and snoozing, reading and relaxing. So as much as I’m excited about this coming season on Governors Island, the following summer suddenly sounds even better.
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