Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today broke ground on the new park and public spaces on Governors Island, announced the opening of the newly rehabilitated Castle Williams and kicked off the 2012 season on the Island, which opens to the public on Saturday. The Governors Island Park and Public Space Plan was designed by the acclaimed landscape design firm West 8, with extensive input from the public. The 30 new acres of park now under construction include Liggett Terrace, a sunny, six acre plaza with seasonal plantings, seating, water features and public art; Hammock Grove, a sunny ten acre space that is home to 2,000 new trees, play areas and hammocks; and the Play Lawn, 14 acres for play and relaxation that includes two turf ball fields sized for adult softball and Little League baseball. In addition to the 30 new acres, Phase 1 adds new welcome areas, a re-graded Parade Ground and key visitor amenities, including lighting, seating and signage throughout the Historic District. Mayor Bloomberg was joined for the event at the Battery Maritime Building by Congressman Jerrold Nadler, State Senator Daniel Squadron, Council Member Margaret Chin, Commissioner of the National Parks of New York Harbor Maria Burks, Trust for Governors Island President Leslie Koch and Governors Island National Monument Superintendent Patti Reilly.
“Governors Island is the centerpiece of our efforts to revitalize New York City’s waterfront,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “In 2010, we promised that our Administration would make Governors Island a destination that New Yorkers and visitors would be able to enjoy for generations. Today’s park groundbreaking takes us one step closer to that goal and proves that the Island has not only a great past but an extraordinarily bright future.”
Castle Williams re-opens to the public after an extensive three year renovation which was funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, National parks Service Recreation Fee Program, and an appropriation secured through the efforts of Congressman Jerrold Nadler. This renovation has made it possible for members of the public to experience this historic structure, learn about its history through interpretive exhibits, and for the first time, experience an unparalleled view of Lower Manhattan and the New York Harbor from the top of the Castle.
“Today is a fantastic day for Governors Island,” said Congressman Nadler. “I am proud of the role I have played to make today’s ribbon cutting at Castle Williams possible. More New Yorkers than ever will now have access to wonderful new green spaces and be able to gain a greater understanding of the Island’s history through this newly refurbished fort.”
“Governors Island has become a great destination for Lower Manhattan residents and indeed for all New Yorkers,” said State Assembly Speaker Silver. “The construction of the new park and public spaces, combined with the already outstanding array of arts, cultural and recreational programs that the Island offers each summer, will ensure that the Island is a resource for years to come.”
“Today’s groundbreaking is one more step toward making Governors Island the center of a unified Harbor Park – a central park for the center of our City,” said Senator Daniel Squadron. “I'm pleased to have played a role in moving Governors Island forward and ensuring it stays open every summer. Now there will be even more open space for New Yorkers to enjoy, just minutes away from Manhattan and Brooklyn, as Governors Island transforms into an extraordinary waterfront destination. Thank you to Mayor Bloomberg, the Trust for Governors Island, and my colleagues in government.”
“Summer hasn’t truly begun until Governors Island opens to the public,” said Council Member Chin. “I am pleased to join Mayor Bloomberg and other officials today to invite my neighbors in Lower Manhattan and New Yorkers from all five boroughs to come out to the Island and see all that is happening there.”
In addition to constructing new public spaces, the Bloomberg Administration’s investment in Governors Island will bring the Island infrastructure into the 21st century. Stabilization of the historic houses of Nolan Park and Colonels Row, which will preserve the structures for the future, will begin this summer. These houses will be closed this season for work but will re-open in 2013. The capital program also addresses the 2.2 miles of seawall, the electric and telecom service to and on the Island, water and other utilities and the docks serving the Island.
“Today is a milestone for Governors Island and a great way to kick off the 2012 season,” said Leslie Koch, President of The Trust for Governors Island. “The Trust for Governors Island is committed to keeping the Island open to the public while construction on these extraordinary spaces begins. We look forward to welcoming thousands of visitors to enjoy car-free biking, great art exhibitions and special events every weekend from now through the end of September.”
“As we re-open Castle Williams today, we remember all of the changes that the fort has undergone in its 200 year history,” said Maria Burks, Commissioner of the National Parks of New York Harbor. “We are excited to begin a new chapter in the Castle’s history as we invite the public to visit beginning May 26.”
In addition to being able to access more of Castle Williams than ever before, the public can also enjoy new exhibits that outline its changing history from a fort built to defend New York City against the British during the War of 1812 to an Army prison to a Coast Guard base. This summer marks the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, the war this fort was built for, which makes its re-opening even more timely.
Governors Island opens Saturday May 26 for the 2012 season. The Island will be open every Saturday, Sunday and Holiday Monday from May 26 through September 30. The Island is closed on Fridays to facilitate construction of the new park and public spaces.
The Governors Island public season brings a wide range of arts, cultural and recreational programs that are free to visitors. Many of the Island’s most popular programs will be available to visitors again this season including Mark di Suvero at Governors Island presented by Storm King Art Center, the Children’s Museum of the Arts Free Island Outpost program, the Earth Matter Learning Compost Center, Figment’s artist designed miniature golf course and programs with the National Park Service. Exciting new programs include Graphic Design—Now in Production, an exhibition co-organized by Cooper-Hewitt and the Walker Art Center, vintage baseball games and new food festivals, like the 5 Boro PicNYC on Memorial Day weekend.
Visitors can take free ferries from Lower Manhattan or Brooklyn to enjoy the Island’s programs which include art exhibitions, performances, educational programs and food festivals. Visitors are also welcome to bring their own bike to the Island or can rent one while visiting. On Free Bike Holiday Mondays (Memorial Day and Labor Day), visitors can borrow a bike for free for up to one hour. Visitors can also take the East River Ferry to access the Island.
Visitors interested in visiting the newly re-opened Castle Williams will have the opportunity to learn about the history of Governors Island in an intimate setting led by a National Park Service (NPS) Ranger, as tours to the top of the Castle are limited to small groups. Tickets will be on a first-come, first-served basis for the Castle and roof.