An Island Like No Other
Governors Island is truly an island like no other, with a unique vantage point on the Harbor and a treasured historic landscape.
VAST WATER, BIG SKY
In Manhattan, tall buildings create canyons with their own shadows. There is little sense that Manhattan is an island surrounded by water. Elsewhere in the five boroughs you can only see patches of sky and may never see the waters of the rivers and harbor, the sun setting in the west, or the stars at night.
Governors Island offers exceptional sensations of vast water and big sky. At its southern tip, the waters of the Upper New York Bay reach to the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. The sky seems to stretch for miles, beyond the familiar landmarks of the Harbor. As the sun sets each evening, its arc casts different shades of pink through the sky, changing with the seasons and the weather.
The design articulated in the Park and Public Space Master Plan provides many places to revel in the visual experiences of water and sky.
View and horizon lines have been planned to deepen these already inherent sensations. At sunset, lean back into the slope of the Hills as they meet Liberty Terrace and watch the sun sink into the Harbor. Sprawl on the Play Lawn and look up at the clouds shifting overhead. Gaze over Fort Jay to the Manhattan skyline just beyond the trees while you listen to a concert on the Parade Ground. Pause at the South Prow and feel the cool sea mist against your skin. Lean onto the handrail of the Great Promenade over the swirling currents and deep, mysterious waters. Finally, take it all in at the top of the Hills where sky and sea meet in an unmatched panorama.
TWO 360° VIEWS ON THE HARBOR
The park and public space design offers two 360° experiences on the Island: one more slowly shifting along the Great Promenade and the other providing surprise and drama from viewpoints on top of the Hills.
360° from the Great Promenade
The perimeter of Governors Island offers a unique experience of a 360° panorama of the Harbor.
Disembarking from the ferry at Governors Island, a visitor sees the Lower Manhattan skyline as if for the first time. Walking clockwise towards the Island’s eastern edge, the green of Brooklyn Bridge Park is followed by the piers of the working waterfront and the Queen Mary 2 dwarfing the Island when in port. As Buttermilk Channel meets the Harbor, the wind, sounds and smells change until the Statue of Liberty faces you beyond. From the Island’s western edge, Ellis Island is visible, then the skyscrapers of Jersey City, the confluence of the Hudson and East rivers and the Lower Manhattan skyline again, now framed by Castle Williams in the foreground.
This journey offers different views and experiences when undertaken counter clockwise, or alternatively on a bicycle, alone or with others. Views and sensations change in different seasons, days or even different hours in the same day.
The West 8 Team’s design for the Great Promenade enhances the experience of this panorama. The promenade pavement widens into mosaic paving at places to meet, disembark or linger. The promenade railing invites visitors to come to the water, look, and lean. Two levels of pathways created at the South Prow Overlook and western Promenade double the number of places to hang out and enjoy the views.
360° from the Hills
The Hills offer a more dramatic 360° panorama of the Harbor. As you make your way up one of four hills, the Island’s open spaces and buildings fall away, and the Harbor and skyline reveal themselves. While just 82 feet high above grade, the tallest hill affords views previously only experienced from a plane or helicopter.
The panorama of the Harbor, with the sea, sky and monuments unfolding, gives you the sensation of being at the top of the world.
ANIMATING A NATIONAL TREASURE
First settled by the Lenape, then the Dutch, and once home to the British royal governor, Governors Island in its original form was witness to the first 200 years of New York’s history. The Island’s three forts mark its original shoreline and its important role in 1811 as the City prepared itself for war. For the next 175 years, the Island served military needs with the construction of officers’ housing, arsenals and the doubling of the Island’s footprint. The northern Island’s landscape today evokes that history.
With the designation of 92 acres of the northern portion of the Island as a National Historic Landmark in 1985, as a local historic district in 1996, and with the declaration of 22 acres, including Fort Jay and Castle Williams as a National Monument, the landscape and buildings here are protected. Future generations of visitors will continue to enjoy the Historic District’s shady “park-like” setting, unique within the City’s five boroughs.
The Park and Public Space Master Plan respects the exceptional history of the Historic District but animates this national treasure to prepare it for a new life integrated with the rest of the Island and open to the public.
The new topography echoes and responds to the lush green landscape of the Historic District. The plan gently restores the historic intent of trees and plantings, highlights the South Battery, and revives the Parade Ground. The plan adds amenities such as seating, promenade railing, and lighting and knits the Island together with the Great Promenade. Ultimately, the design has a unified feeling as you transition from the Historic District through the Arch to the Island’s new southern landscapes.
Governors Island offers a world apart from New York City, an extraordinary vantage point on New York Harbor and its icons, and the chance to experience the sounds and smells of a green Island surrounded by water. The Governors Island…
During the 2007 design competition, the West 8 Team sketched an idea for Governors Island’s park and public spaces: create a dramatic vertical landscape on the Island. This idea was based on the notion that in order to transform it…
Governors Island already embodies a special carefree spirit. Its first generation of visitors remark that a visit is like a vacation. The park and public space design preserves the Island as an oasis for bicycling, play, the arts, and the…
Sustainability is a core principle driving the Master Plan.
Creating and preserving 87 acres of open space on Governors Island and making them accessible to millions of urban dwellers of course addresses larger goals for the livability and sustainability…
“Island of a thousand hammocks.” “A place to go with the one I love.” “Kite
flying.” “A field to play.” “Ice cream.”
Thousands of New Yorkers contributed ideas about what they would like to see in the park and public…
The Park and Public Space Master Plan is the first phase of the Island’s multi-phase, mixed-use development strategy.
The Park and Public Space Master Plan will transform Governors Island into a destination, take advantage of its unparalleled setting in the…