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 and Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn’s waterfront, the open Harbor, Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, Staten Island, New Jersey, Liberty and Ellis Island, and the confluence of the Hudson and East Rivers. As the visitor circles the Great Promenade, the sounds, smells and sights change. The same circuit taken later that same day, in a different season, in the opposite direction, provokes the senses in new ways.
The Great Promenade is designed for both walkers and bicyclists, as well as runners, strollers, and roller bladers. It is wide enough for two cyclists to “bike and chat” and to share the path safely with pedestrians. It is a public, car-free thoroughfare for the entire Island which accommodates visitors as well as future visitors and tenants for the Island’s buildings. Some of these buildings front the Great Promenade.
The Great Promenade invites you to the water’s edge — to feel the spray of a crashing wave and to smell the moist salty air. There are many comfortable places to sit so visitors can enjoy the views of boats, people walking by and the sunset. The promenade railing is amply sized to encourage visitors to safely lean over to watch the tide recede. Lighting illuminates the route for Island visitors at night. Certain elements — such as the promenade railing, benches, lighting, and paving palette — remain consistent throughout the Great Promenade and help to integrate the southern portion of the Island and the Historic District.
A visitor may stop along the Promenade, at the South Battery, or along the western edge, where the upper level of the promenade offers a comfortable elevated seat edging to take in a view of the Harbor. The two levels of promenade, here and at the South Prow, provide visitors with the option of lingering at the water’s edge or taking an upper route for a broader vantage point. There are many shady spots with allées of London plane trees.
At Soissons and Yankee Landings, the Island’s two arrival points, the Great Promenade’s paving changes from asphalt to mosaic, to signal the moments of arrival and gathering. This pattern of mosaic re-emerges at other key points along the Great Promenade, as it turns inward at the South Prow Overlook, widens to become Liberty Terrace and slopes down again to meet the water’s edge at the western seawall. While the mosaic adds to the sense of delight, it does not interfere with mobility, as it is designed for use by bicycles, wheelchairs, strollers and other wheeled devices.
At several points along the circuit, the Great Promenade offers a choice of experiences and perspectives. At the northern end of the Historic District, pedestrians stay along the water and encounter food, drinks and entertainment at a concession, while cyclists turn toward Andes Road and ride along Fort Jay. On the eastern side, pedestrians and cyclists have the choice of staying along the water or entering a new allée of trees that frames a special view of the Brooklyn Bridge.
As the full journey of the Great Promenade draws on the senses, sights and seasons, artists’ commissions in a variety of media may heighten these experiences — an artwork visible on the sea wall only at low tide, a sound piece, constellations of sculpture, an interpretive narrative of the Harbor, a playscape.
Art surprises and delights on the Great Promenade: a circular journey without a fixed destination.
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 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…
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…