Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Rowing to Governors Island

Rowing in The Quixotic. Photo from Frank at Floating the Apple.

On June 3rd, Floating the Apple, Lang on the Hudson kids (myself included) and random people rowed three Whitehall Gigs to Governors Island, home of Fort Jay, deteriorating former Coast Guard homes, lots of flowers, trees, and grass and, of course, gorgeous views of downtown Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Ellis Island and Lady Liberty.

Governors, closed from September to June, opened to the public on June 3rd, but in a restricted sense. According to its website, people must go on the guided tour from Wednesday through Friday. On the weekends, people are allowed to explore the island a bit more, but only the northern half. The southern half is closed off to the public.

The ferry (only way to reach the island, besides rowing or flying in somehow or even swimming, if you're up for that) leaves lower Manhattan (next to the South Ferry) every hour from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and leaves Governors Island every hour from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with a final boat at 5 p.m.

We left Pier 40 (where Floating the Apple is located) at around 8 a.m. The water was perfect--calm and smooth. Being early, we killed some time at Louis Valentine Park in Red Hook. After getting water or coffee and looking for the bathroom, we launched out once again and continued our row to the dock that Rob's friend built on Governor's Island.

Docking at Governors Island.

After docking all three boats (tying them up, something I haven't done before), we explored the island. On the grassy lawn near the dock, there were kayakers lounging next to their row of kayaks.

Water on Governors isn't potable according to many signs featured prominently throughout the island. This is also expressed on its website and even in forms regarding permission to film and photograph on the island. This is due to its faulty water system. However, they are attempting to correct this, amongst other problems, with the Governors Island Land Use Improvement and Civic Project. There was one food/beverage vendor we stumbled upon. He told us about the other vendor, but we didn't see him.

Walking around the island, Rob showed us Governors Island's sliver of a beach (there is one under the Brooklyn Bridge and in Hoboken as well) that, in his opinion, would make a perfect landing/launch spot, if they just threw in a ladder and a couple of things (sorry, I don't know the technical term) to tie the boats to.

Governors Island's beach.

Despite not being "allowed" to enter any buildings, we managed to find an unlocked door to the basement of the Admiral's House. We wandered through the desolate, mostly unlit rooms and found a working bathroom, a closet filled with new Christmas decorations, rooms with what appeared to be elementary school chairs, empty water bottles and various construction items. I took what I think is a door stop, at least, according to Josh. We wanted to wander upstairs but we thought someone would see us and kick us out. Next time...

The row back to Pier 40 was choppier but we still made it. The idea behind this trip is to show New York City/Parks Department/Governors Island that there is a demand and desire for more access, especially boating access, to the island (as well as other parts of New York, but that's for another time), and there is. It's just a matter of spreading the word. Every person I've talked to becomes interested in rowing and I've already taken most of my friends down to Pier 40.

After a call for proposed redevelopment plans, the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation settled on five plans featured in New York Magazine. Thankfully, according to the 2006 Status of Planning for Development, no permanent housing is allowed on the island. What is also interesting is the educational uses requirement. Of the plans, I suppose I'd have to pick the Mollusk, though I don't know how sensible outdoor heated baths are.

View of downtown Manhattan with a hint of Castle Williams.

One of their main concerns is trying to make the island enticing enough so people will WANT to take the ferry over. I would think this would be the least of their concerns--wouldn't people want to island hop in New York? There's already interest in the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and I know people are intrigued by Roosevelt Island, so why not Governors? It just makes sense.

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