August 26, 2007

Summer's Back

And I have another sunburn. After all that cold, rainy weather, it feels kind of nice. But yesterday was hot and STICKY, even while careening down the East River on a boat.

Edith and I had been fascinated with Governor's Island for at least a year now, so yesterday we finally decided to go. During the week there's really limited ferry service and you can only take a park ranger-guided tour, but on weekends during the summer, they open the island up to the public and you can wander around on your own. Better yet, the LMCC and River to River have been sponsoring outdoor concerts - and with DJ Rekha spinning bhangra yesterday, we no longer had an excuse not to go.

For those of you who aren't familiar, Governor's Island is the island you see between the Statue of Liberty / Ellis Island and Brooklyn, off Lower Manhattan. It's basically an old Civil War fort and military base, formerly occupied by the Army and the Coast Guard, but way before that it was a Dutch settlement. Four years ago its ownership flipped back over to the state of New York and now they're trying to figure out what to do with it.

Governor's Island is also part of the National Parks Service, and the park rangers are helping to get people to come check it out and get excited about it once the new development actually starts.

In the meantime, it's essentially abandoned. Its only residents are the members of the FDNY responsible for keeping it safe.

passing a gravel barge down the East RiverFor our first trip to the island, Michelle and I took the Water Taxi from E. 34th St. and met up with Edith who'd boarded at LIC. We braved a very bouncy ride down to Fulton Landing, zig-zagging across the river over to South Street Seaport, and then down to Governor's Island. Taking Dramamine didn't help much, so I was holding on for dear life. By the time we got there, I was already sunburned and a little disoriented, but excited to explore what is essentially a ghost town within NYC.

It was so hot that at first we just lied on the grass listening to the bhangra/reggae mashup on the stage, with live percussion and people in the audience actually knowing some Indian dance moves. I managed to bounce my shoulders despite lying on the ground.

view of Lower Manhattan skylineWhen we got to exploring, we marvelled at this strange place, with such a lovely view of the Lower Manhattan skyline - and Civil War relics mixed with distinctly 1970s architecture. It seems to have all the amenities of modern living - bus stops, a church, theater, school, golf course...And then there's the big fort...cannons...and a castle.

New York City has so many weird places like this to check out. It'll take a lifetime for me to get through all of them.

Water Taxi in front of air vent

Even on weekends, the last water taxi leaves at 4:14 (which we missed) and the last free ferry leaves at 5. We kept remembering the feeling we had in SF when we visited Alcatraz, musing about what would happen if we were left behind. Fortunately we didn't have to find out, and after a much quicker 7 minute ferry ride to the Battery Maritime Building (basically South Ferry), we were back in a part of the city that was more familiar to us and most of its residents and tourists. But just behind us, still not too far away, was that island, with the big, weird, white building looming at its entrance (a building I later discovered is an air vent for the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel).

Governor's Island closes for the season on September 2, but there are lots of photos online, and NYC-TV has covered it in some good original local programming. You can also play Freedom Fighters on your Playstation to experience the island virtually. And there's always Open House New York in October as your last chance of the year...

Forgotten NY's report on Governor's Island

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