The 92-acre Governors Island Historic District, including the 22-acre Governors Island National Monument, is a nationally and locally designated historic district. Changes to the Historic District are guided by preservation and design standards that seek to protect the architectural and landscape features.
The landscapes and public spaces of the Historic District retain their historic character, with limited and selective planting of trees and foundation plantings, restoration and repair of brick pathways, and rejuvenation of key spaces including Liggett Terrace and the South Battery.
The Island’s two halves are truly joined together for the first time. The Great Promenade wraps the Island’s perimeter. Liggett Terrace and Yankee Landing serve as transitions between the Historic District and the new park and public spaces. A common palette of park elements — furnishings, lighting, signage and railing — is provided throughout the Island to integrate the old and the new.
In the early nineteenth century, the South Battery served as the third line of defense for the Island. The Island’s expansion isolated the South Battery’s sandstone wall in asphalt and obscured its historic role and the Island’s original relationship to Buttermilk Channel.
New seating and the planting of trees, shrubs and lawn transform the South Battery into a wonderful resting spot along the eastern edge of the Great Promenade. Boat passengers traveling to Yankee Landing from Brooklyn see this lively green place as a preview of the Island’s park and public spaces. Bicyclists and pedestrians enjoy this spot to take in views of Brooklyn Bridge Park and the working waterfront.
Historically, the Parade Ground (also known as the “Glacis”) was where military personnel gathered in formation for inspection or parade. In the mid-twentieth century, a nine-hole golf course was shoehorned onto this site. In 2008, demolition of the former Super 8 motel and adjacent parking lots created two additional acres of grass, so the Parade Ground now totals more than 12 acres of lawn.
Consisting of a gently sloping lawn framed by trees and a unique view to the north across Fort Jay to an expanse of Manhattan skyscrapers, the Parade Ground can still support many “footprints.” Here, people enjoy listening to music; playing soccer, baseball, and pick-up sports; grilling and sunbathing. The southern end of the multi-purpose lawn has been gently re-graded to facilitate field sports. Movable backstops and bleachers can be used at two ballfields, and movable goals can be used for a soccer field.
With the lawn’s slope and exceptional view to the north, the Parade Ground provides a natural setting for gatherings and concerts. Island pedestrians can now easily traverse the Parade Ground. As an improved setting for sports and events, framed by bicycle paths and additional trees, the Parade Ground becomes a lively green space that serves as the heart of the Historic District.
The handsome brick houses along Colonels Row once sat along the edge of the Island, overlooking the Harbor. Today, approximately 100 years after the Island was doubled in size, the houses look out from a five-foot rise onto a lush triangular green shaded with tall trees.
Replacing the roadway at the toe of the slope with grass provides a seamless carpet of lawn within the triangle of Colonels Row, unifying the space. The character-defining allées of London plane trees remain. The narrow brick pathway at the front of the homes is repaired and augmented to provide better access and welcome visitors.
An interesting variety of mature trees set in green lawn characterizes lovely Nolan Park, a setting for wooden houses. Selective foundation plantings, care of the trees and other planting, and path beautifications bring a bit more color and life to Nolan Park. The seasonal color of Nolan Park is a wonderful counterpoint to the variety of new trees in the Hammock Grove.
Soissons Dock served as the arrival point for Governors Island ferries for decades, but the area was utilitarian in function with the convergence of asphalt roadways. It contained few amenities to welcome visitors or celebrate a unique vantage point on…
The Great Promenade runs for 2.2 miles along Governors Island’s perimeter. In a 45-minute walk, or much less time on a bicycle, visitors experience a 360° view of New York Harbor from the water’s edge: the skylines of Lower Manhattan…
Designed as the centerpiece of McKim Mead and White’s 1930’s “Island Beautiful” plan, Liggett Hall is a massive U-shaped Neo-Georgian structure that transverses the Island. Its most distinctive feature is the Arch, the monumental archway that connects the Historic District…
The Hammock Grove provides an area of filtered light and shade between the cultivated sunny space of Liggett Terrace and the open expanse of the Play Lawn and the Hills and Harbor beyond. Visitors come to the seven-acre grove to…
The Play Lawn is an 11-acre green expanse where children and adults play sports, soak in the sun, roll around on the grass, grill, and gather.
In the largest multi-purpose lawn area, two regulation-sized ballfields support league baseball, softball, soccer…
The southern half of the Island stretches from the flat plantings and paving of Liggett Terrace through the gentle sloping paths of the Hammock Grove and Play Lawn to four hills rising in height from 46 feet to 82 feet…
The Statue of Liberty serves as an icon for New York City, a symbol recognized around the world and visited by millions of tourists each year. Yet, ironically, while the Statue was visible to generations of immigrants, soldiers and other…
The bell of a buoy sounds, storm clouds are visible in the distance, the temperature drops and the breeze picks up as the visitor rounds the Island’s southern tip. Gone are the Manhattan skyline and the Brooklyn waterfront. Ahead, as…