Not Just Any Old Island

By Karishma Dhanjani

Since May, after 30 new acres of parks and public space have opened on Governors Island, many New Yorkers and visitors are rediscovering one of the city’s great outdoor treasures.

The scenic appeal of this 172-acre oasis just 800 yards from Manhattan is undeniable. But did you know the island is also packed with history?

Yesterday, DNAinfo wrote about an old, tarnished relic that was excavated on the island, presumably a remainder from its military past. Although officials aren’t certain what it is, there is a bustle of speculation— is it a railway train car? Or a hand cart? Around World War I, a railway system was built in order to connect the various docks and warehouses on the island, when it was still a military base. The railroad was fully dismantled by 1931. Read the full article here.

Despite the short-lived railroad, the island has a robust military history. It was, in fact, one of longest continually operated military installations in the United States. As early as 1755, it was the site of a colonial militia. According to the National Parks Service, the island has served many military purposes at various points throughout history: as a “mustering point “ for personnel during the Mexican War and the Civil War, a federal arsenal, an army music school and a prison for Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. The island eventually became a base for the U.S. Army and then the Coast Guard.

In 2003, the federal government sold 150 acres of the land to the people of New York. The City of New York became responsible for the island and created the Trust for Governors Island, which has transformed much of the land into an unrivaled public space. A bevy of events take place throughout the summer, ranging from arts, cultural and recreational programs. It also plays host to food festivals, concerts, performances and much more.

Now, for the first time, it is open seven days a week, accessible via ferry. Governors Island is a unique New York asset, with acre upon of acre of inviting grounds, premier events, unsurpassed views of the State of Liberty and the New York Harbor — and, of course, lots of history. Visitors are, in fact, welcome to tour a 92-acre historic district that features the island’s original buildings. To learn more about this special place, go to www.govisland.com.

Get ready to explore.