Yesterday we took a National Park Service tour of Governors Island. The tour was just of the sites controlled by the Parks Service known as the Governors Island National Historic District and not of the whole island which is under the control of various local, state and federal agencies, so all the good stuff on the southern end of the island like the abandoned PX, bowling alley and Burger King weren’t on the tour. However, given it was on a weekday, we were able to see some construction work being done that would not normally be seen on the weekend. Unlike on weekdays, on weekends there are Park Service tours, as well as access to the open areas of the island, although you aren’t able to get inside almost all of the buildings.
There is one way to access the island on is on the Governors Island ferry, the Lt. Samuel S. Coursen which departs from the Municipal Ferry Terminal in Lower Manhattan, next to the Staten Island Ferry terminal. After a short ride with some amazing views of the harbor and Staten Island Ferry, the tour began outside the ferry waiting room on the island.
This tour was led by Ranger Allison Luchnick, who not only pointed out the history of the island but noted some of the future plans for it. What was covered on the tour was Castle Williams, the early aviation history of the island, the South Battery, Nolan Park, and Fort Jay. Sadly, there was no interior access to any of the buildings on the hour and a half tour.
Governors Island closes for the season on Sunday and there are still some programs and tours this weekend. Visits to the island are free, including the ferry ride, but if you do take the Water Taxi (which only runs on weekends) it will cost you. Be sure to pack some beverages, snacks if you go, since there may or may not be a food truck stationed near the ferry dock.