“The Hills” Are Alive in New York City

Manhattan in the background

The new “Hills” of Governors Island, with Manhattan in the background

Where is the longest playground slide in New York City? And what is the closest land-based vantage point to view the face and front of the Statue of Liberty?

The answer to both these seemingly trivial questions is the newly created 10-acre park on the western side of New York Harbor’s Governors Island, a 172-acre historic venue that once was a base for the US Coast Guard and now has been turned into public parkland for all to use and enjoy. It’s a wonderful escape from Manhattan and unlike Central Park, which is surrounded by buildings, Governors Island is completely surrounded by water and is a lovely insulation and repast from the bustle and noise of the city.

From Discovery Hill, the "Cabin" sculpture cast with Manhattan in background

From Discovery Hill, the “Cabin” sculpture cast with Manhattan in background

The four new “Hills” of Governors Island Park are the culmination of a three-year project—ground-breaking to dedication—to add more natural attractions and park space to the island’s park. And it’s a much-needed preserve for quiet, solace and even meditation. The only noises one might hear are the birds, ferry whistles or the occasional helicopter.

The "scramble": climbing up to the top of Outlook Hill

The “scramble”: climbing up to the top of Outlook Hill

The four “Hills” are:

  1. Grassy Hill is a 25-foot-high gentle, grassy slope overlooking the Island’s new and historic landscapes and the Manhattan skyline.
Slide Hill, at 40-feet high, is the home of four slides, including the longest slide in New York City, 57 feet in length.
  3. Discovery Hill, also 40-feet high, features the sculpture cast of a small “Cabin” by the famous British sculpturist and artist, Rachel Whiteread.
  4. Outlook Hill, 70-feet high, provides fully accessible paths and the Scramble, a kind of distressed stairway constructed out of reclaimed granite seawall blocks, which enables one to reach Outlook’s peak (it’s reminiscent of climbing the pyramids). On top of Outlook Hill, visitors have unrestricted views of New York and New Jersey, including the Harbor, the front side of the Statue of Liberty, the Verrazano Bridge, Ellis Island, Staten Island, and the skylines of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Jersey City.


The Hills were constructed out of debris from the demolition of some 48 derelict buildings and more than 2,000 parking spaces on the Island, as well as new dirt and fill barged to the island.


Looking northwest to Jersey City, New Jersey, with Staten Island Ferry

Looking northwest to Jersey City, New Jersey, with Staten Island Ferry

Getting to Governors Island (how and when)
Getting over to Governors Island is as easy as pie; it’s a seven-minute ferry ride from the Governors Island ferry building, 10 South Street, located next door to the Staten Island Ferry. Both are situated at the southernmost end of Manhattan just east of Battery Park. Weekend ferry service also is available from Pier Six at Brooklyn Bridge Park. The island is open daily from 10 am to 6 pm on weekdays and to 7 pm on weekends, and ferries depart every hour on the hour to the island throughout the day. And the return trip is every hour on the half-hour.

Cost for the roundtrip ferry ride from Manhattan or Brooklyn is $2 for adults and admission to Governors Island is free. For seniors, the cost is $1 and children under 13 ride free. In addition, all passengers ride free on Saturdays and Sundays up until 11:30 am.

Governors Island will be open to the public through September 25.

For more on Governors Island, visit govisland.com.

John Lampl

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