2004-07-08 / Travel

Governors Island: NYC Renewed Treasure

New York City, known as the "Ca-pital of the World" for its cultural, historical and business centers, has one more gem to add to its resume: Gov-ernors Island. Now open for public visitation, the 172-acre island, with its two forts, 64 landmarked buildings, and mile-long waterfront esplanade with impressive views of the New York skyline and New York Harbor is sure to enlighten, invigorate and mesmerize visitors for years to come.

Charles A. Gargano, Chairman of Empire State Development, said, "Un-der Governor Pataki’s leadership, we already have the support to make the island a fantastic educational, cultural and civic destination for New Yorkers and its visitors to enjoy. Governors Island is interwoven throughout the fabric of American history, ever since becoming a strategic military location in the American Revolution. Governors Island will be a place where residents and visitors alike can relax, enjoy spec-tacular views of the Statue of Liberty and lower Manhattan, discover the importance of this extraordinary State treasure in our nation’s history and learn about the historical and ecological significance of New York Har-bor."

A visit to New York City now can be enhanced by the new Governors Island attraction. The location served as a military fortification in the early 1800s until 1997, when the US Coast Guard closed its facilities there. On January 31, 2003, after more than 200 years of federal ownership, Governors Island was sold back to its original owners, the City and State of New York, for $1.

Today, Governors Island is both a historical and recreational attraction, as nearly half of the island has been designated as both a National Historic Land-mark District and a New York City Historic District; and, is home to one of the newest units of the National Park System, the Governors Island National Monument. In addition to the mile-long waterfront esplanade, the island also offers numerous indoor and outdoor venues for hosting events throughout year.

"We want New Yorkers and visitors to see this island as their own. This summer, we are enabling unprecedented access to the island; affordable access where a family can come and spend the day, take part in a tour, have a picnic and enjoy the beauty of New York Harbor," said

Randy A. Daniels, New York’s Sec-retary of State and Chairman of the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation, the organization responsible for the stewardship of Governors Island.

On weekdays, visitors to the island can take part in the free National Park Service’s Ranger-led tours of the historic district. Guests on the tour will learn the military history of the island from its time as a Revolutionary War fort through to its last days as a U.S. Coast Guard base in 1997 and can explore the island’s two forts: Fort Jay, built in the 1790s; and, Castle Williams, completed in 1811, which later served as a military stockade for Confederate prisoners during the Civil War.

Passes for the tours are available at South Street Seaport Museum ticket booths located within the Seaport on Pier 16 and at 12 Fulton Street. Tickets are sold on a first-come, first-served basis each day Tuesdays through Fri-days. Tours begin with ferry departures at 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.

For those looking for a great weekend getaway, the Governors Island Sat-urday Esplanade day passes are a must! Running along the western and northern edge of the island, the esplanade is perfect for a mid-afternoon walk, a brisk jog or to catch a breathtaking view of New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Lower Man-hattan and the Brooklyn Bridge. Na-tional Park Rangers will also lead short tours of Castle Williams and Fort Jay throughout the day.

The Esplanade is open to the public every Saturday through September 25. Passes are also available at South Street Seaport Museum ticket booths located within the Seaport on Pier 16 and at 12 Fulton Street. Tickets for the ferry are available beginning the Mon-day prior to departure, either at the ticket booth or by phone at (212) 748-8786. Ferries depart for Governors Is-land from the Battery Maritime Build-ing adjacent to the Staten Island ferry terminal in Lower Manhattan. The Bat-tery Maritime Building is a 15-minute walk from the South Street Seaport.

Indoor and outdoor facilities for special events, picnics and fundraisers will also be available for rent throughout the summer and autumn."We’re delighted to be able to offer a number of ways for city residents and visitors to discover the history and the mystery of one of the most extraordinary but least well known places in the city. This will be an exciting year ahead as city residents and the world at large are invited to discover Governors Island," said James F. Lima, President of GIPEC.

For more information on Governors Island tours and Saturdays on the Esplanade, including ferry departure information, visit the Governors Island Web site at www.govisland.com. For National Park service tours, visit the NPS Web site at www.nps.gov/gois or call the NPS information line at (212) 514-8296 for a recorded message. For more information on renting the island’s facilities, including fees and available dates, write to events-gipec @empire. state.ny.us.

For more information about other travel opportunities in any one of New York’s 11 vacation regions, call toll-free 1-800-CALL-NYS or visit www. iloveny.com.

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