Figure/Ground

Governors Island


Governors Island is a small island located off the southern tip of Manhattan that recently opened to the general public. For about 200 years, it was under the control of the federal government. It had served as a military base, a prison, and more recently, the Coast Guard's headquarters.

Now it sits unoccupied (save for a few ferry men, apparently) and the public is allowed to visit for the first time on a limited basis. Being the curious type, I signed up for a tour and went for a look-see. The tour was interesting insofar as it had an air of "ooo, people are usually not allowed on this island" feel about it. But beyond the novelty, the tour was not as interesting as it could have been. We weren't allowed in any of the buildings and the Park Rangers (I don't know about you, but it's weird to see a fully decked-out Park Ranger in Manhattan) just went on and on giving history lessons when all I wanted was to explore the island on my own.

The fort and the castle were not the most remarkable things about the island, despite the fact that they are some of the oldest and most well-preserved ones in the States. What was most interesting was that, and I quote our Park Ranger, "it's Manhattan's newest neighborhood." And what an idyllic and thoroughly charming neighborhood it is, with stately Victorian mansions and big, old trees and huge expanses of lush lawns. It's just not something you expect to see in Manhattan—rural Virginia, maybe, but not here.

I can't help but think that it would have be so much cooler to visit the island back in the Coast Guard days in the company of someone who actually lived there.




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