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BY ALINE REYNOLDS | Leslie Koch, president of the Trust for Governors Island, talks about her job and about the island’s present and future, in light of the island’s seasonal reopening to the public last Friday, May 27.
What new events and activities should visitors to Governors Island look forward to this summer?
Every weekend, there’s something different to do. In addition to the art exhibitions and Free Bike Fridays, there’s a different program or festival every weekend for people to enjoy. It’s a totally new line-up from last year. Next week, there’s the World Science Festival on Saturday, and Sunday is polo.
We also have this extraordinary exhibition, presenting the work of sculptor Mark di Suvero. If you thought Picnic Point was the best place to be on Governors Island, you have to come out and see these four extraordinary sculptures. They just take your breath away. The wonderful thing is people are getting to see this really beautiful art that’s normally in a museum or a sculpture park, and it’s all completely free.
And, in July, the National Park [Service] is going to open up Castle Williams for the first time to the public, just in time for the 200-year anniversary of the construction of Castle Williams in 1811.
Is there anything particularly fun for kids?
There are new holes on the miniature golf course, and the theme of the course is bugs. I haven’t played all the holes yet, but I hear there’s a centipede!
Also, the Children’s Museum of the Arts is coming back for the third year, and there are even opportunities for kids to experience the sculpture. Whether you’re a real kid or a grown-up who wants to be a kid, the sculpture on Governors Island invites you to play. We don’t have a no-touch rule here!
And I heard you’ll be open on holiday Mondays? What went into that decision?
People asked us, and we listened. Two years ago, people asked us for ice cream. We now have ice cream all over the island. People asked for more bikes, and now we have more bikes. People asked for a beautiful park, and we’re building it. We listen to our visitors.
Mayor Bloomberg said he’d be coming to the island to play mini-golf. Would you play 14 holes with him?
Yes, but I know he’s much better at golf than I am, so I may have to do some practicing when we’re closed to the public, before he comes back.
So what’s your daily grind like?
I don’t have a grind — I work on Governors Island!
In the mornings, I ride my bike to the [Manhattan] ferry from Brooklyn, I bring my lunch, and I look out my [office] window at the harbor. Mondays through Thursdays, like most people in offices, I have meetings and do email… Fridays, I ride around the island on my bicycle with my Blackberry, and make sure that everything is in perfect shape for our visitors. On Saturdays and/or Sundays, I come out as well, and make sure the organizations are producing programs, that they have everything they need, and that everything is ready for our visitors. On the weekends, I take the ferry from Brooklyn, so I have a shorter bike ride.
What’s your favorite activity on Governors Island?
To be honest, I just love riding around on my bike and seeing how much people enjoy this special place. It’s a wonderful thing to see how many happy people there are in this city. There’s a lot of smiling! I also like [eating] Blue Marble ice cream — had my first ice cream cone of the season [on opening day last Friday]. And my favorite weekend is when the Figment art festival is here, in mid-June.
What’s in store for the island’s future?
We’re working very hard on the park and public space. I’m very excited about the design. We’ll have shovels in the ground next year, and we’ll open it at the end of 2013. We’re also working at the same time on a lot of other very important projects, like the restoration of potable water, the upgrading of our utilities and other projects to stabilize the historic buildings and update all of our infrastructure. We’re busy all the time, even when the public is not out here having fun.