Sunday, July 17, 2011

Governor's Island: a little piece of Manhattan where cars fear to tread

Governor's Island - a little, flat Utopia off the bottom end of Manhattan



I'm slowly discovering New York's intriguing chunks of itself scattered close to the "mother ship," Manhattan. 

There's Fire Island (holiday favorite of the gay community off the coast of Long Island), Roosevelt Island (an odd little strip of suburbia in the East River between Manhattan and Queens),  Ryker's Island (the prison island), City Island (Bronx), Ellis Island (houses a museum), Liberty Island (on which stands the lady in the green dress) and just this weekend, I visited Governor's Island

It could not be easier to get to this "ice cream cone shaped island" (check out the map below!) especially on a bike. Cruise down the west side bike path to where the Staten Island Ferry takes off, go a bit to the left, and there's a FREE ferry from South St to this little car-few nirvana. 


From Wikipedia: 



Governors Island, a 172 acre island in the heart of New York Harbor, is only 800 yards from Lower Manhattan, and even closer to Brooklyn. It is a world unto itself, unique and full of promise. For almost two centuries, Governors Island was a military base – home to the US Army and later the Coast Guard, and closed to the public. 

800 yards! You could almost swim it. In 2003, it was largely turned into a park, and since then, several activities have sprung up on this low-key isle, #1 being to lazily bike around its perimeter, criss-cross the blob of ice cream, and just hang out picnicking on the grass. 

The day I went - Saturday - some giant sculptures by Mark di Suvero, on loan from the Storm King Arts Center in upstate New York, littered the landscape. My first thought:  how they got the sculptures there ... by container ship, surely? Or by a massive convoy of 16 wheelers?


Below, the Statue of Liberty waves back towards me as I prepare to devour my picnic lunch on Picnic Point:


The sculptures really stood out against the pancake-flat landscape - big backdrops of sky to set them off:


My friend Cat showed how pleasureable it is to ride in this almost car-free utopia. It's early days, enjoy the peace while you can ... 



Figment is an annual exhibition of very inventive artworks each accompanied by a thought-provoking explanation. First up, a sculpture that lets kids be kids and adults be adults in close proximity - kids play in the kayaks and the adults loll below in hammocks:


Someone built a "children only" model of a semi-submerged jet fighter covered in astroturf. I'm really not keen on playful renditions of warmongering accoutrements, but since you can buy a plastic AK-47 in day-glo colors (I am assuming) then this is just par for the course:


 One artist, Isabelle Garbani, was knitting up a storm using plastic bags made into yarn, and "dressing" nearby trees with her repurposed-bag "sweaters." 



A bunch of drink bottle caps made for some clickety clackity fun when you pulled down on the cord; I think the food concessions should have had buckets to collect these caps near the trashcans:


"This one's not that interesting," said Cat of this table of wooden shapes and a sign inviting us to build. A few minutes into it and we're engrossed, creating our own tabletop mini-Manhattan and brusquely elbowing and kids out of the way who try to topple it. 

Ah, to be a kid again!


There's even a New York Harbor School on the Island, where kids learn to read, write, dive and learn all about ocean ecology. The #1 aspiration of the students? To become a marine biologist ... 

1 comment:

Glenn said...

I need to go to Governors Island! I wish DC had more water, or a moutain, or bears hiding in Rock Creek.