BrightView Helps Keep Governors Island One of New York’s Most Interesting and Unique Tourist Destinations
The island intertwines history, a park atmosphere, and a defense against rising seas
It’s almost impossible to visualize anyplace in New York City with no taxis, no traffic, and no car horns. But in New York Harbor sits the 172-acre cone-shaped Governors Island, where vehicles are prohibited and the island’s natural beauty is being restored for visitors to enjoy.
Only accessible by ferry from Manhattan or Brooklyn, Governors Island has become a place for outdoor recreation, concerts, sporting events, and more.
“They are already calling Governors Island the new Central Park,” said Sean Brosnan, BrightView Landscape Development Senior Vice President. “This park provides visitors with an experience unlike any other in the city.”
For more than 200 years, Governors Island served a military purpose, first as a Revolutionary War fort, and later as a Civil War prison, U.S. Army headquarters, and a U.S. Coast Guard base. In 1996, the base closed and the small town that had grown up to support it was abandoned.
Almost 10 years later, the partially man-made island was transferred to the city and state. Twenty-two acres, including the two forts, was designated as a National Park. The lower 43 acres, or cone part of the island, was set aside for redevelopment as a park.
Four artificial mounds sprout from the southern end of the island and are known as “The Hills.” They were built using recycled materials from buildings that once dotted the island’s landscape, along with gravel and 12,000 cubic yards of fill material floated down the Hudson River by 137 barges.
The four hills each give a unique experience to visitors: Grassy Hill rises just 25 feet with a view of the 30-acre park; Discovery Hill rises 40 feet and features ornamental trees and shrubs; Slide Hill also rises 40 feet, but is adorned with four slides for children and adults to enjoy, one of which is 57 feet and is New York City’s longest slide; and Outlook Hill rises 70 feet, with both a winding path and an off-terrain climb over granite blocks salvaged from the island’s old seawall.
Outlook Hill also gives visitors a sweeping, 360-degree view of lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the New York Harbor, all of Governors Island, and a frontal view of the Statue of Liberty – the only place Lady Liberty’s face can be viewed from land.
BrightView lost its bid for the first phase of the redevelopment project, but was asked to manage the design and installation of two baseball fields on the island. After exceeding the client’s expectations by finishing the fields ahead of schedule and achieving a cost savings, BrightView was awarded the project of The Hills as part of the second phase.
“Projects in New York present unique challenges and this one was no exception,” said Andy Dunne, BrightView Landscape Development Director of Pre-Development Services. “However, this was a great opportunity for us to knock this project out of the park and show that we know what it takes to complete a job here.”
BrightView was able to have The Hills constructed nine months ahead of schedule.
All told, the project required more than 42,000 shrubs and hundreds of trees. BrightView chose 54 species of native or locally-adapted plants for the area because of their salt tolerance, root structure, and ability to thrive in the harsh environment of the island.
The Hills also are more than just being visually pleasing. They defend against flooding, erosion, and rising seas on an area that was once completely flat. The four artificial mounds were designed in the belief that average high tides will rise measurably by the end of this century.
The southern area, created from landfill material dumped from the construction of a subway line in 1905, withstood an early test from Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
The 7-acre Parade Grounds, located just outside the National Historic Park boundaries, recently underwent a restoration, which included BrightView re-grading and reinforcing the area and installing new sod. These changes will now make the Parade Grounds a more usable space for concerts and more.
Governors Island is only open to the public from the spring until fall. This year, the island is set to open May 1.
“It’s hard to put into words how much this project means for our team,” Dunne said. “We feel a great sense of pride when we stand there and see the New York skyline and know that we built this.”
BrightView is the largest provider of commercial landscaping services in the United States. Through its team of approximately 20,000 employees, BrightView provides services ranging from landscape maintenance and enhancements to tree care and landscape development for thousands of customers’ properties, including corporate and commercial properties, HOAs, public parks, hotels and resorts, hospitals and other healthcare facilities, educational institutions, restaurants and retail, and golf courses, among others. BrightView is the Official Field Consultant to Major League Baseball.
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