Fifty Feet and Climbing!

The Hills continue to rise on Governors Island!  As you know, three of our four hills, (Grassy, Slide and Discovery) are already at their rough grade (aka their approximate height before adding soil for planting grass, trees and other vegetation).  Each will offer a different experience to park goers. Grassy Hill will provide unobstructed views of the new park and a gentle grassy slope, perfect for watching baseball games below. Slide Hill will have a fun, family friendly play-space with climbing structures and slides of differing heights embedded into the landscape. Discovery Hill will offer a leisurely path through nature and incorporate public art by the artist Rachel Whiteread into the landscape.

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West 8 rendering of the Grassy Hill slope overlooking the Play Lawn 

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West 8 rendering of the Slide Hill play area

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West 8 rendering of a wooded path on Discovery Hill

Finally Outlook Hill, the tallest of the four hills, is still under major construction.  We hit the 50 foot height mark last week, but still have a ways to go! When Outlook is complete it will tower 70 feet over the promenade, providing unmatched views of Lower Manhattan and the New York Harbor.

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Outlook Hill in progress

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Moving earth to build Outlook Hill

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View of Lady Liberty from the top of Outlook Hill at 45 feet

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Lady Liberty between Discovery and Outlook Hills

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A foggy look at Lower Manhattan, New Jersey, and Outlook Hill from the top of Discovery Hill

When they are complete, the hills will be the centerpiece of the spectacular West 8 designed park on Governors Island, and a new landmark and destination for New York! Check out our awesome visualization of the creation of the Hills:

Putnam & Putnam: Visitors to Governors Island

Our visiting snowy owl has a name, thanks to Governors Island fan, Brooklyn based author and “sass machine” Kristen Bonardi Rapp! His name is Putnam, after General Israel Putnam who helped fortify Governors Island in advance of the Battle of Brooklyn during the Revolutionary War. Learn more about General Putnam and the Battle of Brooklyn below:

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Putnam the snowy owl “chillin” in the new park on Governors Island.

After the Siege of Boston, the British set their sites on NYC, with plans to station their navel force on Staten Island. A few days after the British began landing on Staten Island, word reached New York that the U.S. Congress had voted for independence. A mob of excited patriot New Yorkers quickly tore down the statue of King George III in Bowling Green. They mounted the head of the statue a spike outside a tavern, and turned the rest into musket balls to fight the British.

General Putman, know as “Old Put”, was George Washington’s right hand man in New York. He had already begun work to fortify the Harbor prior to the arrival of the British, but stepped up his efforts in 1776. Fortifying Governors Island, was a major focus for Old Put because control of the island dictated control of the mouth of the East River and access to the east side of Manhattan and Brooklyn Heights.  Putnam, along with 1,000 men constructed an earthen works fort roughly where Fort Jay is located today. By the start of the battle, the Continental Army had major fortifications on Governors Island, in Red Hook, in Brooklyn Heights, and in the Battery of Manhattan.

General Israel "Old Put" Putnam

General Israel “Old Put” Putnam

Despite the fortification, Generals Washington and Putnam were badly outnumbered and the British gained control of New York City.  When the United States regained control of the city at the end of the Revolutionary War, one of the very first things the new United States government did was fortify New York Harbor, formally beginning the long military history of Governors Island.

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A view of modern Fort Jay from above

A big thanks to Kristen (who, fun fact, is distantly related to General Putnam!), and to all the the @Gov_Island twitter followers who suggested names for Putnam! Happy Friday!

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!

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Discovery Hill from the top of the Outlook site.

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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.

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Snowy South Battery and Saffron Star

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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

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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

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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 govisland.com.  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

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