The Tallest of Them All: Progress on Outlook Hill

You know we are working hard on the next phase of the new park on Governors Island – The Hills! But first, a little background for those of you who may not remember:

The Hills are the next phase of the new park and open space. You might recall we knocked down some old, derelict buildings on the South Island to make way for them (check out this awesome visualization of the building demo and Hills construction for a refresher). When they are complete, the Hills will highlight the transformation that has taken place south of Liggett Hall. Ranging up to 70 feet in height with panoramic views of New York Harbor, the four Hills (Grassy, Slide, Discovery and Outlook) will be a place in New York unlike any other. In addition to the spectacular views, the Hills pay homage to the lush, hilly landscapes of pre-colonial Manhattan, and will fortify the Island’s resiliency in the face of rising sea levels.

Currently, we are working on building Outlook Hill, the tallest of the four.  We are placing the heavy and lightweight fill (dirt and pumice), which makes up the substance of the Hill. In fact, we have placed so much fill that Outlook is already 20 feet tall –that’s more than ¼ of the way there!


Discovery Hill from the top of the Outlook site.


A view of our hard working construction team building Outlook Hill in the snow.

We know you like options so we have also begun work on our “Granite Scramble”, one of the coolest features on Outlook Hill. Once the scramble is built and the Hills are open to the public, you’ll have the option to meander up Outlook on one of the paths, or to “scramble” (aka climb) up the granite that will run up one side of the Hill.

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Sorting granite blocks in preparation to build the “Granite Scramble” on Outlook Hill.

To get an idea of what the Hills will look like when they are finished, check out these spectacular renderings of The Hills by West 8.

Hard at Work in a Winter Wonderland

Snowmaggedon 2015, otherwise known as Juno, may not have dumped as much powder as predicted in the five boroughs, but it was still enough to turn Governors Island into a cold, gorgeous winter wonderland.

South Battery

Snowy South Battery and Saffron Star

South Island Snow Drifts 2

South Island Snow Drifts

Liggett Terrace, Hammock Grove and Lady Liberty

Liggett Terrace, Hammock Grove and Lady Liberty

Winter Sunrise over the Play Lawn

Winter Sunrise over the Play Lawn

Atop Slide Hill 2

View from Atop Slide Hill

Despite the snow, we were still hard at work on Wednesday ensuring that the Hills are still rising and that the next phase of the new Park will be awesome!

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Building Outlook Hill in the Snow

Hills Work 2 on 20140128

Building Outlook Hill in the Snow

Use Governors Island’s Ballfields During the 2015 Public Season

There are two natural turf ballfields, sized for Little League baseball and adult softball.

There are two natural turf ballfields, sized for Little League baseball and adult softball.

The permit process to use Governors Island’s sports fields is now open! The two natural turf ballfields can be easily configured for Little League baseball and adult softball or for soccer and other field sports. The fields will be open for permitted use during daylight hours every day from May 23- September 27.

The ballfields will open on May 23 when the Island opens for the 2015 season. The ballfields are sized for Little League baseball or adult softball. The outfields of these fields can also be used for soccer or other field sports. Fields are open when the Island is open to the public. The Island is open every day from May 23 through September 27. On weekdays, the Island is open 10 AM to 6 PM; on weekends from 10 AM to 7 PM.

Organizations can apply online to use the fields. The permit process will be open until March 1 at which point we will review all of the applications we have received. There is a $26 non-refundable permit fee. As with other public ballfields in New York City, preference will be given to youth groups, schools and leagues from across the City. Once the permit process is closed, The Trust will let groups know if they have secured field space and the dates and times at which they can use the fields. Fields are free of charge for all youth and school groups. There is a fee of $50 an hour for adult leagues.

We look forward to welcoming groups from around the City to play ball while enjoying incredible views of the Harbor and Statue of Liberty.

OpenHouseGI Permit Process for Governors Island’s 2015 Public Season Now Open

In 2014, this workshop that was a part of OpenHouseGI was enjoyed by many Island visitors.

In 2014, this workshop that was a part of OpenHouseGI was enjoyed by many Island visitors.

The OpenHouseGI permit process for Governors Island’s 2015 public access season is now open. OpenHouseGI offers 150,000 square feet of indoor space in former officers’ houses and over 20 acres of outdoor space free of charge to any organization that creates programming that is free and open to the public during the Island’s public season. All organizations are welcome to apply to OpenHouseGI through the Trust’s website. In 2015, Governors Island will be open every day from May 23 through September 27.

OpenHouseGI offers more than two dozen former officers’ homes in Nolan Park and Colonels Row for groups to use.  Due to unprecedented demand for indoor spaces, the 2015 season will be divided into two sessions. Session I runs from May 23-July 20 and Session II runs from July 21-September 27. Groups wishing to use indoor spaces apply for only one of the two sessions. Groups using indoor spaces for the first half of the season may have the opportunity to extend their use of the space if it is available for the second session.

OpenHouseGI also offers nearly 25 acres of outdoor space for programs. These include the Colonels Row Festival Grounds, the Parade Ground and Nolan Park. In 2015, South Battery, a two acre green space located a short distance from Yankee Pier, will open for the first time. With its historic sandstone wall and Mark Handforth’s “Saffron Star” it could be used for a wide range of programs, including dance and theatrical performances. The Play Lawn Oval, a two acre lawn in the new park adjacent to the ballfields, will also be available. This versatile space could be used for outdoor art, performances or other activities.

In 2014, more than 60 organizations produced site specific dance performances, educational workshops, theatrical productions, recreational and sports programs, art exhibits, and much more for Island visitors. The Island typically welcomes 8,000 visitors each weekend day and in 2014, welcomed 476,000 visitors. More than 75% of visitors to the Island are from New York City.

All of the information needed to apply can be found at  We look forward to the 2015 season being the best one yet for Governors Island.

The Red Duster: an Island History Lesson

As you history buffs may know, the British took possession of Governors Island in 1776 to use as their army and navy headquarters during the Revolutionary War. We all know how the story goes—the British efforts to subdue the colonist rebellion failed, and today we eat hamburgers instead of bangers and mash as a result.  Despite the last major battle of the war, the battle at Yorktown, taking place in 1781, the British stuck around for two more years.  The Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783, officially ending the war.

Evacuation Day in New York, the day in 1783 the British supposedly left our fair state, is celebrated on November 25th.  While much of the British military force did leave New York by the 25th, the Kings Colors* were still flying over Governors Island for one more week.  The British Navy finally handed the Island (and the hospital that existed here) over to the new United States, and more specifically to an appointee of New York’s Governor DeWitt Clinton on December 3, 1783.

Letter from James Ducan, British Navy Captain to Governor Dewitt Clinton informing him that the British would be evacuating Governors Island

Letter from James Ducan, British Navy Captain to Governor Dewitt Clinton informing him that the British would be evacuating Governors Island

Today, December 2, 2014 in recognition of the British Navy’s departure 231 years ago tomorrow, the National Park Service here at Governors Island is flying the British Red Ensign, also called the “Red Duster” over Fort Jay.  It was the flag of the British Navy at the time of their evacuation from New York Harbor. The Red Duster was also the flag that Lord Cornwallis surrendered under to end the American Revolution (at Yorktown, mentioned above!) in October 1781.

"Red Duster" flying over Fort Jay on December 2, 2014

“Red Duster” flying over Fort Jay on December 2, 2014

We love providing a little Governors Island history, courtesy of our friends at the National Park Service. Come to the Island for a tour of the Governors Island Historic District with NPS this summer to learn more about our long military history!  In the meantime, please let us know via the comments if you’d like to see more blog posts about the Island’s history.

*Edited for historical accuracy

The Billion Oyster Project: Restoring New York Harbor and Getting to Know the Waterfront

Ask any New Yorker and they’ll happily tell you, they know a lot about a lot. Living in the cultural capital of the world provides exposure to museums, theaters, incredible food and restaurants, universities and the greatest forum of all – the busy city streets. All of these resources are possible in New York because of the diverse populations of 8+ million people (and growing!). But for better or worse, those 8+ million people in a relatively small area mean New Yorkers also know something about pollution.

The newly reclaimed waterfront, and the relatively new collective consciousness about pollution and climate change has begun to lead activists, as well as federal, state and local officials, to begin to clean up our polluted waterways.  One of the coolest and most innovative projects working to clean and restore New York Harbor is the Billion Oyster Project – something many New Yorkers know nothing about!

Governors Island is excited to be the home of the Billion Oyster Project (BOP).  The project is a long-term, large-scale plan to restore one billion live oysters to New York Harbor over the next twenty years.  Oyster reefs once covered more than 220,000 acres of the Harbor and provided massive ecological benefits including water filtration, wave attenuation and a habitat for thousands of marine species.  Over time, excessive harvesting and pollutants flowing into the waters around New York degraded the oyster population into extinction. As waterways around New York Harbor have started to become cleaner, oysters can once again survive in the Harbor waters. Unlike many marine animals however, they need human assistance to return.

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Recycled shells are used to create a growing medium for oysters and are the building blocks of new reefs.

The Billion Oyster Project is using aquaculture to cultivate millions of baby oysters and rebuild reefs where these oysters can grow.  At the Urban Assembly Harbor School, a public New York City School here on Governors Island, aquaculture and marine biology students oversee a hatchery and nursery where oysters are spawned and begin to grow. Once they are large enough, they are transferred by scientific diving students to reef structures built by engineering students on the floor of New York Harbor where they can continue to grow, reproduce and colonize new ground.  The BOP hopes that eventually this will lead to a self-sustaining oyster population and restoration of the habitat and the Harbor.


Harbor School students at work on the BOP

Currently, 11 million oysters have been restored to New York Harbor by the students at the Urban Assembly Harbor School. Those oysters have filtered 19 trillion gallons of water, removing 6.75 million pounds of nitrogen from the Harbor. Only 989 million more oysters to go!

In addition to helping to restore the ecosystem of the Harbor and clean the East River, the BOP will help educate thousands of young people at the Harbor School in the process. Not only does the project provide and education in growing oysters or building an oyster reef, but more broadly it provides training for students in one of six (Aquaculture, Marine Biology Research, Marine Systems Technology, Ocean Engineering, Vessel Operation, and Scientific Diving) areas of marine science. These areas were carefully chosen to allow students to have a comprehensive understanding of the Harbor, the tides, how we use our waterways, and what is required for the restoration of the Harbor and estuary.

The skills the Harbor School students will learn through participation in the Billion Oyster Project will help them, the future leaders of New York, to understand the water, which is critical to understanding how to address rising tides, climate change and waterfront uses in the City.  New Yorkers know a lot, but in a post-Hurricane Sandy world, many are just starting to learn about what it means to live surrounded by water. The Billion Oyster Project is restoring a habitat and building a new generation of New Yorkers who know a lot about a lot more.

Lower Manhattan and the Harbor from Governors Island

Lower Manhattan and the Harbor from Governors Island

To learn more about the Urban Assembly Harbor School and the Billion Oyster Project (and donate!), check out their respective websites at and

American Society of Landscape Architects Honors Governors Island

Trust for Governors Island President Leslie Koch is honored at the ASLA's 100th Anniversary President's Dinner

Trust for Governors Island President Leslie Koch is honored at the ASLA’s 100th Anniversary President’s Dinner

Trust for Governors Island president Leslie Koch was honored on Thursday at the American Society of Landscape Architecture’s NY Chapter dinner. The ASLA recognized Leslie’s “dedication to transforming a valuable New York City waterfront asset into a world class destination.” Leslie was honored alongside Rockefeller Foundation president Judith Rodin and New York 1 News.

The ASLA noted that Governors Island’s 30 new acres of park and public spaces, designed by West 8, are an “oasis in the middle of New York Harbor” that “will stand the test of time.”


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