February on Governors Island: Operations Highlight


Governors Island’s 172 acres contain dozens of buildings, miles of roads and paths, essential utility lines, outdoor attractions, visitor amenities, maritime infrastructure and many other features that require constant care and attention. The National Park Service stewards 22 of these acres, including two historic forts, that comprise Governors Island National Monument. The Island’s Operations department takes care of everything else.

Operations manages Governors Island’s ferry landings, which includes coordinating both pedestrian and vehicle traffic.

The Operations team works to keep Governors Island in shape all year long. Visitors, Harbor School students, Island workers—anyone and everyone heading to the Island rely on the Ops team to get them there. Ops is responsible for Governors Island’s ferries, from determining service and staffing schedules, coordinating deliveries and responding to emerging conditions in the Harbor, to maintaining facilities and machinery on both sides of the crossing. Their supervision allows Governors Island’s two ferries, the Samuel Coursen and the Governors 1, to provide reliable service and keep the Island operating normally throughout the year.

Experienced ferry crews make the crossing smooth for visitors and staff alike.

Getting everyone and everything to Governors Island is just the tip of the Operations iceberg. All of the facilities, amenities, roads, paths, utilities, vehicles, equipment and landscapes on the Island (besides in the National Monument) fall under Ops’ purview, and this is not an exhaustive list. Every one of these assets, down to the railing that circles the Island’s ice cream cone-shaped shoreline, depends on Ops to keep them in good condition. This means that Ops’ day-to-day activities vary widely: any single day could see potholes filled, light posts repaired, tires changed, lawns mowed, waste collected, buildings maintained—the list goes on, and there’s always plenty to do to keep the Island safe and enjoyable for all users.

Operations staff at Earth Matter’s Compost Learning Center in the Urban Farm, where they deliver compostable materials collected on Governors Island, at the end of the 2019 public season.

The vast majority of Operations’ duties continue year-round, though there are some seasonal tasks. The ferry landings need more management when there’s higher foot traffic in the summer; outdoor furniture comes and goes with the seasons; roads need de-icing in the winter. Some year-round duties change slightly from month to month: there are more leaves to remove from storm gutters in fall, more path repairs to make after the spring thaw, more compost to put down in the spring to jumpstart the growth of the grass. For the most part, Operations’ long list of responsibilities stays constant year-in, year-out.

The canine members of the Operations team, GI’s working dogs patrol the Island to keep it free of geese, which can harm the landscape and introduce invasive species.

From the moment you first step into the ferry line until you later disembark back in the City, the work of the Operations team positively impacts your trip to Governors Island. Whether it’s the 4th of July or New Year’s Day, Ops keeps Governors Island going.