Governors Island by Kanushree Jain

Governors Island iMovie
Transcript of Governors Island’s Video

Summer is almost here and I bet many of you are planning to drive down south to Florida or perhaps across the states to California? How many of you are wondering what in the world am I going to do all summer in the city? How about exploring our very own backyard…Governors Island?

Now where is Governors Island? It is in the heart of the New York Harbor, west of Brooklyn and south of Manhattan.

For you English majors, the name is not misspelled. Instead, the dropped apostrophe has a history behind it.

Bought from the Native Americans in 1637, the Dutch called it Nutten Island after the island’s plentiful hickory, oak, and chestnut trees. Then in 1664, the English seized control of New Amsterdam, renaming it New York and acquired Nutten Island, which they set aside for “His Majesty’s Governors” and so renamed it Governor’s Island (with the apostrophe).

Because of its strategic location, Governors Island served as a military base for over 200 years until 1966. It then became the east coast headquarters and training center of the U.S. Coast Guard. Over the years, Governors Island has witnessed several historically significant events. In 1986, the Island was the setting for the relighting of the newly refurbished Statue of Liberty by President Ronald Reagan. In 1988, President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev met here to discuss restoring democratic rule in Haiti. In 1995, the U.S. Coast Guard closed its facilities and all residents were relocated by the following year. In 2003, Governors Island was finally transferred into the hands of NY State to be used for public benefit, charging a nominal fee of a dollar. At the time of transfer, deed restrictions were put into place that prohibited permanent housing and casinos on the Island. The transaction was complete and the apostrophe became history.

Today, this ice-cream shaped island is managed by two entities. The Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation (GIPEC) oversees the cone or the southern 150 acres. The remaining 22 acres to the north are managed by the National Park Service, which includes Castle Williams and Fort Jay. Although the Island is open to public access only on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays during the months of June to October, GIPEC has a mission – to bring Governors Island back to life. Metamorphosize a deserted military base into a thriving public place. And so, president of the GIPEC, Leslie Koch, is working tirelessly to make Governors Island the next must see location of New York. Her vision of Governors Island – to be New York City’s Newest Playground of the Arts, where visitors can experience arts and recreation opportunities unique to New York and not available elsewhere. In the past four years, Governors Island has hosted a variety of events to welcome its precious guests such as sculpture-making events, art exhibitions, live concerts, and dance parties.

Of all these activities, biking remains the most popular activity on Govenors Island. On Free Bike Fridays, as the name suggests, visitors could borrow a bike for free for up to one hour. And just last summer, the entire 2.2 mile promenade was open for biking or walking. This is all thanks to the team of GIPEC called West 8, who is busy designing exceptional public places and parkland. To check out their master plan, log onto In fact, for the first time last summer, Picnic Point became the Island’s newest and most popular open space, with hammocks, swings, a three-acre sustainable farm, and unparalleled views of the Statue of Liberty.

Now biking on a beautiful island may be heavenly but no water recreational activities??? Simply put, GIPEC should strongly consider this place-based solution of offering free canoeing and kayaking every weekend just like they do with biking. This will definitely attract many more New Yorkers since water sports are not as easily accessible as is biking.

With waves splashing, the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty in clear view, the Island is the perfect place for photography. In fact, a photography workshop would be a great addition to the long list of recreational art activities.

However, what is the use of planning a whole new world of activities if a large chunk of the population isn’t even aware? To show you what I mean, I surveyed 100 CUNY students, and here is a glimpse of their answers.
CUNY students:
1) Have you ever heard of Governors Island?
2) Do you know where Governors Island is located?
Their answers in numbers – pie charts.
These numbers call for what may seem an obvious solution: MARKETING

Even when I went to the Arts Forum at the New York Times Center where Leslie Koch talked about the future of Governors Island, the demographics of the audience comprised mainly of artists, who had either already exhibited their work on the Island or who were seeking the opportunity. There were very few who were just casual visitors of the Island. And so, the existence of Governors Island needs to be announced.

According to this map, Governors Island’s neighbors, Manhattan and Brooklyn, are simply packed with people to the max, which is why they are dark brown, meaning there are 15,000 to 220,000 people per square mile. While there isn’t much open space in Manhattan and Brooklyn, Governors Island is full of public places and parkland for recreational activities. So how should we attract these New Yorkers down to Governors Island?

With 99 percent of American households owning at least one tv, why not air a catchy tv commercial? And with 4.3 million New Yorkers riding the subway everyday, let’s place an ad in the subway.

It is also important to note that of the people who did know about Governors Island, a mere 5 percent have visited Governors Island and only 18 percent know about its future plans of a public park. So, to not only increase awareness among CUNY students but also encourage them to take a trip worthwhile is by creating CUNY-sponsored summer programs. These summer programs can be a week or month long in a variety of disciplines from photography to environmental science. Students will not only learn the subject at hand but also have the golden opportunity to explore the history of the island through the tours available there. To see the potential of this proposal, here is the reaction of CUNY students to this summer program.

Well, I hope GIPEC puts these solutions and policy recommendations into practice very soon. Till then, I want to see all of you check out Governors Island this summer, not only because there is a lack of space in your neighborhood, but because of Governors Island’s rich history, beautiful present, and promising future!

Here is a link to the survey I used to gather my data!

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