Fleet Week, cancelled this year due to federal budget cuts, has been a fixture in New York City since 1984. A magnet for locals and tourists alike, this weeklong event provides an opportunity for the public to board active Naval ships, watch military demonstrations and meet the men and women who bravely take to the seas to serve our country. An added bonus is the economic boost the occasion provides. There is no doubt that Memorial Day Weekend 2013 will indeed feel different, but that doesn’t mean Memorial Day weekend has to be any different. So, no matter where you are in the State, spend a moment thinking about Waterloo’s Henry C. Welles and General John B. Murray, whose zealous commitment to our fallen soldiers ultimately led to this holiday we enjoy every May. And, if you find yourself in New York City, head to Governor’s Island to embrace that same spirit that Fleet Week brought us for so many years.
Perfectly timed to the holiday, Governor’s Island opens to the public this Saturday, May 25. Situated just 800 yards from Manhattan and 400 yards from Brooklyn, Governor’s Island inherently has a little bit of Fleet Week built in: its reliance on boats (Island access is only granted via a ferry), its military history (barracks and forts all stand on the Island’s grounds) and its knack for celebration. Two prominent fortresses in the Island’s Historic District, Fort Jay and Castle Williams, once protected New York Harbor from naval attacks as far back as the American Revolution and the Civil War, respectively. Before the sites were opened to the public in 2003, the Coast Guard used them as part of their Governor’s Island Headquarters. This year, and because of a major revitalization effort of the Island, the Historic District is the only section that will be open to the public. The Bloomberg administration is investing more than $250 million to construct new parks and public spaces on the southern half of the Island, incorporating a tree-lined promenade, and rolling hills that will imitate the Manhattan skyline, protect the Island from storm surges and offer 360-degree views of the surrounding cityscape.
[Photo Credit for Aerial Shot of Governor's Island: Carlo Buscemi Imagery]