Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Governors Island: New York’s silent oasis, only a 5 minutes ferry ride away

New York is boiling hot these days. I was told a few months ago that the temperature can reach terrible highs in the City but I wasn’t expecting it so early. Anyway, I am glad I recommended to my family not to visit us from May to August. Forget that this weather is unbearable when visiting a urban area; they would probably think Martin and I are crazy to have moved here. 

Enough complaining; at least the heat makes me want to escape the city and leads me to unexpected places like Governors Island

Beautiful abandoned houses
on the island
Governors Island is a public park situated only a five minutes ferry ride away from Downtown Manhattan. New Yorkers go there during the summer to enjoy a quiet countryside atmosphere; on the island they can appreciate great and green outdoor spaces as well as a car-free environment. They can picnic, bicycle (with their own vehicle or using the bike rental shop) or simply walk along the water to absorb splendid views of New York City.  They can also visit for free the Castle Williams, a circular fortification that was built in the early 19th century to protect New York City from naval attacks. 

For my friends from Quebec or for those of you who had the chance to visit this wonderful land where I come from, Governors Island feels like the Plains of Abraham in Quebec city. It is totally sensible as the Island was used as a military facility by British and American forces for more than 200 years. In fact, it served an important military function until the 1960s; it was used for recruitment and as a prison for captured Confederate soldiers during the American Civil War, and throughout World War I and II, it was an important supply base for Army ground and air forces.

If you are wondering why I consider Governors Island to be New York’s oasis – I know, it should be Central Park –, my answer is simply that I was  shocked to be able to enjoy (almost) complete silence during our visit. It was like pushing the mute button; I never experienced this around New York until this weekend. Not in Coney Island, not even in Central Park.

The 5 Boro PicNYC
Martin and I were on Governors Island this weekend for the 5 Boro PicNYC, a food event kicking off the summer season and the official opening of the park. It was great having the chance to taste local food – among other things chicken wings with various BBQ sauces, fancy grilled cheese, tacos, sausages as well as a wide selection of craft beers – and listening to live blues music from New York bands. The weather was also awesome; it must seem hard to believe but the heat was actually a lot more tolerable in this oasis.

Getting ready for the PicNYC
The 5 Boro PicNYC (look at this space!)

To go to Governors Island: take the train to South Ferry station in Lower Manhattan. Free ferries run on Saturdays, Sundays and Holiday Mondays from Memorial Day to Labor Day, offering service every half an hour from 11 am to 5:30 pm (11:30 am to 7 pm for the return).

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