Historic Governors Island Unveils 2012 Season Schedule

May 14, 2012 Updated: May 19, 2012

NEW YORK—As the opening of the 2012 season for Governors Island draws near, the Governor’s Island Alliance has announced events for the upcoming season.

The Memorial Day weekend kicks off the season with a favorite nearby getaway for New Yorkers, the free Governors Island Alliance Family Festival, on May 26 from noon to 4:00 p.m. It features family fun, such as music, dance, and face painting.

A “5 Boro PicNYC” will take place on May 26–27, featuring chefs from all five boroughs. Tickets are required.

An exhibit in Building 110 through Sept. 30 shows visitors details of current construction on the island.

Biking is a popular activity on the island—one may rent a bike on site, or bring a bike over on one of the free ferries, which depart from Brooklyn (Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park) and Manhattan (Battery Maritime Building next to the Staten Island Ferry). Seven miles of bike paths crisscross the island.

In June, a day of outdoor badminton (June 23), an “Army Heritage Day” with a 200-year celebration at the newly re-opened Castle Williams (June 23), and a weekend of live jazz that “brings you back in time to the 1920s” (June 16–17) are part of the offerings on schedule, according to the Trust for Governors Island website.

Evolution of the Island

Governors Island has evolved over the years. Originally, the Native Americans in the region called it Pagganck, or “Nut Island,” for the “island’s plentiful hickory, oak, and chestnut trees,” according to the Trust’s website. Many Native Americans utilized it as a fishing camp. Holland bought the island for the price of “two ax heads, a string of beads, and a handful of nails,” explains the website. Over the centuries, it was often used by different militias.

In 1912, the Army Corps of Engineers added 103 acres of land to the island using rocks and dirt from the excavations for the Lexington Avenue Subway, according to the Trust’s website. In October 2010, the New York Harbor School opened. Students cultivate oysters in the surrounding waters and construct boats, among other activities.

According to Architects Newspaper, the Landmarks Preservation Commission in February approved $300 million for the first phase of capital construction plans to improve the island. Plans include “a potable water connection from Brooklyn,” a “Welcome Wall” at the entrance of Soissons Landing, and an 11-acre “Play Lawn.”

Because of the construction, the island opens only on weekends and two “Holiday Mondays,” or Memorial Day and Labor Day, until fall 2013. The 10-year capital plan began early this year. The Trust for Governors Island has added other features, such as 20 new hammocks to “Hammock Grove,” an area for relaxing and seeing the sky and the Statue of Liberty.

The Coast Guard took over the island in 1966, using it as both a residential community—with about 3,500 residents—and a base for the area. Years after the Coast Guard left the island, in January 2003, Mayor Michael Bloomberg transferred 150 acres of the island to the public. The other 22 acres are managed by the National Park Service.

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