Governors Island has become the latest corner of the city where sweaty, music-loving hotpants-wearing New Yorkers go to escape the heat. While the ferry ride from Downtown Manhattan is a mere 10-15 minutes at most — yes, less than the Staten Island ferry — the island’s untouched and underdeveloped feel gives it a decidedly remote tone akin to a vacation in a foreign land.
During the day gourmet food trucks line up on the walking path across the island’s 170 acres to feed hungry patrons. After dark flashing lights tilt toward makeshift waterfront stages and music blares so loud you can feel the beat in your throat from Manhattan. But on an opposite side of Governors Island from the statuesque sculpture, pop-up shops and contemporary art exhibits lies the skeletons of a bygone era that reveal not the holiday weekend escape we make it to be, but a city within a city, a very normal urban dwelling where families went to church, ate dinner together — and fortified themselves against British forces.
My favorite part of the island? The Fort Jay Theater, crouching behind an unruly collection of trees on the outskirts of the island. With paint peeling off the doors and windows of the establishment, it’s almost difficult to imagine that you can still rent out the single screen room of the theater, even though there is no working water and sparse electricity.