“The air is heavenly up here,” a lady exclaimed delightedly into her phone as she paused her climb up the large granite slabs of Outlook Hill, the 70-foot-tall hill comprising the new highest point of Governors Island. Indeed, with a mild breeze tempering the sun’s otherwise aggressive rays and a spectacular view of downtown Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty, I wasn’t too opposed to her declaration.
Yesterday, New Yorkers got even more space to escape the overheating concrete jungle as Governors Island unveiled its newest addition, the Hills. A ribbon-cutting ceremony, attended by former mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York State Senator Daniel Squadron, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, marked the official opening of the island’s ambitious 30-acre-wide park, which features plenty of, you guessed it, hills for sentient New Yorkers to climb, frolic, rest, and gaze upon. The views are undeniably wonderful, with the towering shiny skyscrapers of the Financial District offset by tall shrubs and wild grass. The Statue of Liberty would occasionally appear and then disappear again as I traversed the dips and rises of the terrain.
But the Hills’ best claim to fame is that they boast the longest slide in all of New York City. With a length of 57 feet and a height of three stories, the longest slide on Slide Hill was definitely the most popular among the children who swarmed around the geometric wooden platforms that led to the hill’s four slides – although I did see some kids look down the slide when their turn came and discretely move on to the shorter slides, hoping no one would notice.
There’s also a site-specific installation by British artist Rachel Whiteread on Discovery Hill, which is supposed to feature ornamental trees and shrubs (since they were just planted, it didn’t look as grandiose as in the promos). Whiteread’s installation is a life-sized white cabin, reminiscent of a Walden Pond-type situation, except that the Freedom Tower rises out prominently right behind it.
The Hills were created by using the remains from previous demolitions on the island, as well as utilizing lightweight pumice on Outlook Hill to ensure it didn’t get too heavy for the island. As the greenery begins to grow and more plants and trees are added, the park promises to be a convenient quick escape from the city. And if you do get too agoraphobic from all the nature, you can just fix your gaze on the New York skyline to remind yourself that the city is just a quick ferry ride away.