Governors Island information
Off-limits to the public for 200 years, former military outpost Governors island is now one of New York's most popular seasonal playgrounds. Each summer, free ferries make the seven-minute trip from Lower Manhattan to the 172-acre oasis. Among the island's draws is Picnic Point, an 8-acre patch of green with picnic tables and hammocks; Figment (www.figmentproject.org), a one-weekend-only interactive art festival in June; and Water Taxi Beach , a spit of sand that hosts events from dance parties to live concerts. Then there's the smooth, 2.2-mile bicycle path around the perimeter of the entire island, which you can pedal with rental bikes from Bike & Roll for $15 per two hours (free on Fridays). Commencing in 2012, a major redevelopment of the island will see the addition of a striking new park across its southern half, commercial developments at its eastern and western ends, and a wide new promenade around its perimeter.
Besides serving as a successful military fort in the Revolutionary War, the Union Army’s central recruiting station during the Civil War and the take-off point for Wilbur Wright’s famous 1909 flight around the Statue of Liberty, Governors Island is where the 1988 Reagan-Gorbachev summit signaled the beginning of the end of the Cold War. You can visit the spot where that famous summit took place at the Admiral’s House , a grand-colonnaded, 1843 military residence that’s part of the elegant ghost-town area of Nolan Park. Other historic spots include Fort Jay , fortified in 1776 for what became a failed attempt to prevent the Brits from invading Manhattan; Colonel’s Row , a collection of lovely, 19th-century brick officers’ quarters; and the creepy Castle Williams , a 19th-century fort that was eventually used as a military penitentiary. The best way to explore it all is with the National Park Service (www.www.nps.gov/gois/index.htm), whose rangers conduct 90-minute guided tours of the historic district, usually on Wednesdays and Thursdays.