View from the top of the scramble on Outlook Hill, looking north over the park on Governors Island.
Tim Schenck View from the top of the scramble on Outlook Hill, looking north over the park on Governors Island.

The Hills, a 10-acre park on the southern tip of New York’s Governors Island, designed by international firm West 8 Urban Design & Landscape Architecture opens today. After a three-year-long construction process, which is the result of a 2007 design competition conducted by The Trust for Governors Island, the public space will be open to the public from July 19 to Sept. 25 for its inaugural season. This area had been previously closed to the public since 2012.

The 172-acre island—which served as a military base before the Coast Guard ceased operations on the island in 1996—lies in the middle of the New York Harbor, 800 yards from Lower Manhattan and 400 yards from Brooklyn. Visitors can visit by a 7-minute ferry ride from the Beaux-arts landmark Battery Maritime Building in Manhattan or from Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bride Park. According to the The Wall Street Journal, the public-private project cost $71 million.

View of Freedom Tower and downtown Manhattan.
Tim Schenck View of Freedom Tower and downtown Manhattan.

The four, artificial mounds ranging in 25 to 70 feet in height, offer panoramic views of the surrounding harbor and consist of recycled demolition debris, general fill, and pumice. Using materials already found on the site, the recycled debris is from demolished residential buildings and parking lots. The stability of the island was the foremost concern for the team of West 8. If the hills were too heavy, they could potentially cause failure of a newly built seawall and the underlying support of the island itself. To avoid this, the designers integrated reclaimed pumice stone, a lightweight material taken from the fill used for the Lexington Avenue subway stop in 1911 for the part of the largest hill that faces the harbor. All the hills were then treated with a planting plan conceived by New York-based landscape architecture firm Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, acting as the associate landscape architect on this project, which included topsoil, 860 trees, 43,000 shrubs, and an array of grasses.

Slide Hill
Tim Schenck Slide Hill

Areas within the new park have been given names relating to their specific amenities, such as Grass Hill, Slide Hill, Discovery Hill, and Outlook Hill. Slide Hill, which stands 36 feet high, boasts four slides, one of which is the biggest in the Big Apple, running 57 feet in length. The 39-foot-high Discovery Hill features a public sculpture by British artist Rachel Whitehead, which is a concrete cast of the interior of a wooden, New England-style shed. Outlook Hill, however, is the show-stopper of the bunch. Visitors can climb to reach the breathtaking views of the Statute of Liberty and skylines of both Manhattan and Brooklyn from its outlook via a universally accessible path or a more challenging “Scramble” over the structural base of the site made of reclaimed granite blocks originally used for the decommissioned seawall .

The Hills are only the latest addition to the park and public spaces within Governors Island. Back in 2014, the first 30 acres opened to the public, which included Ligget Terrace, a six-acre plaza adjacent to Ligget Hall, which was designed by McKim, Mead, & White in 1929; Hamm Grove, a 10-acre site with 1,500 new trees and 50 hammocks; and the Play Lawn, which contains turf ball fields within 14 acres.

This article has been updated since its publish date.

View of the scramble on Outlook Hill from the Play Lawn.
Tim Schenck View of the scramble on Outlook Hill from the Play Lawn.
View of the scramble on Outlook Hill from the Play Lawn.
Tim Schenck View of the scramble on Outlook Hill from the Play Lawn.
Rachel Whitehead's "Cabin" on Discovery Hill.
Tim Schenck Rachel Whitehead's "Cabin" on Discovery Hill.

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