Field Trip: Governors Island (Reprise)

I had been planning on revisiting Governors Island since the start of summer, but I figured I’d wait till the new Island Oyster restaurant/bar began food service. And then, suddenly, it was mid-October. The island is only open through the end of the month, but the great thing about going now—especially on a weekday, if you can swing it—is that nobody is there. My ferry had maybe 100 passengers on it, but once we disembarked, they must have turned invisible.

Mainly focused on what’s new since my 2014 visit, I hustled along the east side of the island, stopping first to take a photo of this shed thing, which I don’t believe was there before.

Architecturally, the thrill is still the old buildings. Walking along the shore, with the brick buildings on the other side, was one of the loveliest moments of the excursion.

Now let’s take a minute to complain: When we talk about the failures of Mayor Bill de Blasio, I don’t think we spend enough time lamenting his decision to let tourist helicopters keep flying for six days of the week. Besides banning the flights on Sundays, the deal also called for a 50% reduction in flights, but even if that reduction is in effect, the helicopters absolutely ruin Governors Island. There’s always one buzzing around, usually two, and often three. It’s like living near a freeway. What’s the point of creating this wonderful respite of a park in the middle of the harbor if you let it be polluted by the same kind of relentless noise that makes Manhattan so hard to bear? There is no reason the industry has to exist in such a dense area.

Moving on…. A lavender field is being planted along the east shore; the path is made from oyster shells.

This marvelous old wall was undoubtedly there during my last trip to the island, but back then I focused on the interior, where most of the old buildings and the programming are.

This is less of a complaint that a suggestion for the Friends of Governors Island: Maps are far more useful if they indicate their location. Even these red star stickers would do the trick.

Is there anything sadder than an empty pool on a gray day? Or a playground void of children? I thought about climbing that rope thing, but I was wary of doing something stupid and having to dangle there, waiting for a passerby. Plus, I had no one to take my photo.

That last shot is of a long arrangement of logs and nets that I guess kids scramble on. It struck me as dangerous, but that’s how you know when you’re old: Playgrounds look less like opportunities for fun than for humiliation and injury.

The weather wasn’t actually quite as grim as it appears in these photos; moreover, there was no wind. So as I walked, I grew warm enough to take off my coat.

Finally, the Hills. They’re the star of the island’s southern end. I was pleased that I had waited to see them, because the natural landscaping must look much better now than it did last year. Crickets and other insects could be heard chirping away.

And the shift to a dirt/mulch path was most welcome—we don’t feel the earth under our feet enough in New York City. The top of the hill afforded a harbor view, including of a monument to an era when the country welcomed immigrants.

Looking back at another of the hills…. That’s a road at the bottom, so you get a decent sense of how high they are.

I had been thinking earlier about how nice it is that non-service dogs aren’t allowed on Governors Island, so you can walk without trepidation, and then I saw that hundreds of fuzzy caterpillars were on the roads, heading this way and that. I had to watch where I walked—too many were already smushed, but the carnage would’ve been far worse if they had set out on the weekend.

This was my favorite part of the hills: Huge stone chunks arranged as steps of varying heights, an ingenious way to deal with crowds, because people can forge their own path rather than trudge in a line. (There was also a paved path to the top.)

When I got back down, I asked some folks if they knew where the slides are. They directed me to the right, but I saw nothing. I asked a woman, who said she was looking for them, too. I told her I’d follow at a respectable distance, and she replied that I could join her. Her name was Patty, and she lives in Staten Island; her boyfriend worked on creating the southern part of the island. It was one of those neat New York City moments, where you find yourself hanging out with a stranger. We made a wide loop in the wrong direction, but it didn’t matter—the walking was pleasant, as we chatted about Governors Island, the caterpillars, and so on. She showed me a photo of herself atop that rope thing in the playground, which made me feel lame.

We had to ask several workers, but finally, we found the slides. There are four, three short ones and a biggie. We were amused that the sign said slides were “designated for children ages 5 to 14.” I hope I never stop thinking slides are fun.

Feeling chivalrous, I offered to go first, because there were water drops all down the chute. Unfortunately, damp jeans don’t function very well on a slide; I had to scooch my rear several times to make it all the way. Patty had no such issue—she said it was fast enough that she was a bit scared.

After we parted ways, I ended up back in the playground area. I was still wary of the rope thing—with no one to photograph me—but I did decide to try sitting in this uncomfortable thong-swing.

I’m not very into the arts scene on Governors Island, but I did like this photo shoot in front of a backdrop that says, “I am tired.”

I was tired, too. Not exhausted, but ready to sit and eat. When I arrived at Island Oyster, however, I realized that the time was 12:28 p.m.—and the ferry back to Manhattan leaves on the half hour. If it had been a prettier day, I would’ve stayed, but it wasn’t, so I didn’t. I can always go back in three years, right?

Previous Field Trip posts:
Storm King Art Center
Red Hook
Sunset Park
Bay Ridge
The Met Breuer
ICP Museum
Noguchi Museum & Socrates Sculpture Park
The Fisher Landau Center for Art
The High Bridge
The Broad
Crown Heights
Spuyten Duyvil
New York Botanical Garden
Bed-Stuy
The New Whitney Museum
Bushwick-ish
The Rockaways
Greenpoint
Wave Hill
Governors Island
F.D.R. Four Freedoms Park
Litchfield County, Conn.
One Wall Street
Behind the Scenes at Grand Central Terminal
The Howard/Crosby Microneighborhood
Federal Reserve Bank of New York
East River Ferry
Museum of American Finance

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for the wonderful report

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