Governors Island is a 70 hectares site in upper New York Bay, one kilometre from the southern tip of Manhattan Island, where the financial district is located. It offers magnificent views on the great skyscrapers and New York skyline. Activities on the island include free National Park Service walking tours, bike riding, picnicking, art installations, fairs, festivals, and concerts.
Bicycle, tandem, and quad-cycle rental is provided on the island by Bike and Roll at hourly and daily rates. New York Water Taxi operates an artificial beach on the northern tip of the island. The island is roughly divided in half by a street called Division Road. The north-eastern half is currently open to the public. The south-western half, which contains the abandoned U.S. Coast Guard housing and service areas is still in redevelopment and its interior sections remain closed to the public. The circumferential road around the island is also open to the public. The island is accessed by free ferries from Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Governors Island is recognized as the birthplace, in 1624, of the state of New York. In 1776 defensive works were raised on the island by continental army troops during the American revolutionary war. From 1783 to 1966, the island was a United States Army post. From 1966 to 1996 it served as a major United States Coast Guard installation.
The Dutch explorer Adriaen Block named the uninhabited island “Noten Eylant”, meaning ‘nut island’, in 1611, doubtless after the island’s plentiful hickory, oak, and chestnut trees. This became “Nutten Island” in pidgin English. Upon arrival of the first Dutch colonists to New Netherland, a fortification was erected on the island in 1624. After construction of Fort Amsterdam on Manhattan Island in 1625, Native Americans of the New York Tri-State region started to use the island as their springboard for trade with the Manhattan settlers and referred to the island as “Paggank”. The island’s current name, officially adopted in 1784, stems from British colonial times when the colonial assembly reserved the island for the exclusive use of New York’s royal governors. Physically, the island changed greatly during the early 20th century. Using material excavated from the Lexington Avenue subway, the Army Corps of Engineers supervised the deposit of 4,787,000 cubic metres of fill on the south side of Governors Island, adding 42 hectares of flat, treeless land by 1912.
Governors Island has been open to the public on weekends during the summer. Free weekend ferry service is available from Brooklyn Bridge Park. Access from Manhattan is via a free ferry operated jointly by the Governors Island Preservation, Education Corporation and NY Waterway from the Battery Maritime Building (Financial District), Friday through Sunday.
The site was featured in several films and video games. These include: 2007 film American Gangster, 1980 Steve McQueen film The Hunter, Spider-Man 3: The Video Game (the mission “Scorpion Unleashed” takes place on Governors Island), and World in Conflict video game (where Governors Island is captured by Soviet Spetsnaz forces).