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updated: 8/26/2014 5:56 AM

NYC islands: Governors by ferry, Roosevelt by tram

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  • Visitors take pictures in front of a bust of President Franklin D. Roosevelt at Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, located on Roosevelt Island in New York City. The park, designed by renowned architect Louis I. Kahn, is considered an architectural masterpiece and offers scenic views of the city, including the Manhattan skyline.

      Visitors take pictures in front of a bust of President Franklin D. Roosevelt at Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, located on Roosevelt Island in New York City. The park, designed by renowned architect Louis I. Kahn, is considered an architectural masterpiece and offers scenic views of the city, including the Manhattan skyline.
    Associated Press

  • Castle Williams, a 19th-century fort located on Governors Island in New York City, is a national park site that's dotted with green lawns, outdoor art and historic buildings. It offers a variety of events and activities, along with scenic views of Manhattan.

      Castle Williams, a 19th-century fort located on Governors Island in New York City, is a national park site that's dotted with green lawns, outdoor art and historic buildings. It offers a variety of events and activities, along with scenic views of Manhattan.
    Associated Press

  • This stone monument at Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, located on Roosevelt Island in New York City, bears an excerpt from President Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms" speech, delivered Jan. 6, 1941, declaring freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear to be "essential human freedoms ... attainable in our own time."

      This stone monument at Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, located on Roosevelt Island in New York City, bears an excerpt from President Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms" speech, delivered Jan. 6, 1941, declaring freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear to be "essential human freedoms ... attainable in our own time."
    Associated Press

  • The Roosevelt Island Tram above the Ed Koch Queensborough Bridge, crosses the East River to Roosevelt Island in New York City.

      The Roosevelt Island Tram above the Ed Koch Queensborough Bridge, crosses the East River to Roosevelt Island in New York City.
    Associated Press

  • A ferry approaches Governors Island in New York City. The island, a former Coast Guard facility, is now a national park and recreation site, open daily to visitors.

      A ferry approaches Governors Island in New York City. The island, a former Coast Guard facility, is now a national park and recreation site, open daily to visitors.
    Associated Press

  • The Renwick Ruin at Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park in New York is a former smallpox hospital that opened in 1856 and was abandoned in the 1950s.

      The Renwick Ruin at Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park in New York is a former smallpox hospital that opened in 1856 and was abandoned in the 1950s.
    Associated Press

  • Visitors stand on the steps at Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, located on Roosevelt Island in New York City. The park, designed by renowned architect Louis I. Kahn, is considered an architectural masterpiece and offers scenic views of the city.

      Visitors stand on the steps at Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, located on Roosevelt Island in New York City. The park, designed by renowned architect Louis I. Kahn, is considered an architectural masterpiece and offers scenic views of the city.
    Associated Press

  • Governors Island, a former Coast Guard facility, in New York City is now a national park and recreation site, open daily to visitors through the summer.

      Governors Island, a former Coast Guard facility, in New York City is now a national park and recreation site, open daily to visitors through the summer.
    Associated Press

 
By Beth J. Harpaz
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- New York is a city built on water. Four of its five boroughs -- Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island -- are located on islands, and the city's rivers and bays are dotted with many more. Two of New York's lesser-known islands make terrific destinations for a day trip, filled with history, green spaces and incredible views. And they're easy and fun to get to: Visit Governors Island by ferry and Roosevelt Island by tram.

Roosevelt Island

You can take the subway to Roosevelt Island, but it's more fun to take the tram from 59th Street and Second Avenue in Manhattan (one-way, $2.50 using a subway MetroCard). The six-minute ride offers views of the city, East River and Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge.

On the Roosevelt Island side, walk 15 minutes south to Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park on a tree-lined path along the river with great views of Manhattan across the way. Near the park entrance, you'll pass the Renwick Ruin, a gothic structure that looks like a horror movie set. It's an abandoned smallpox hospital that dates to the 1850s.

The park, in contrast, offers a sleek, pristine landscape, full of symmetry and angled views. It was designed by Louis I. Kahn, an architect renowned for his Modernism. Kahn designed the park before his death in 1974, but its construction was postponed by the city's near-bankruptcy in the 1970s. It was finally completed in 2010.

The park celebrates President Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms" speech, made in 1941. FDR extolled freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear as "essential human freedoms ... attainable in our own time." An excerpt is engraved on a granite monument; a bust of FDR sits at the island's Southern tip. Tree-lined plazas, steps and other structures offer vantage points for seeing the Manhattan skyline; you'll easily pick out the Empire State Building, United Nations, Chrysler Building and 1 World Trade Center.

The park is free, and is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day except Tuesday. See fdrfourfreedomspark.org/. Dining options on Main Street, not far from the tram, include Italian, Japanese, and the Riverwalk Bar and Grill's yummy fish tacos and pulled pork sandwiches.

Governors Island

Governors Island, a former military and U.S. Coast Guard base, has become one of New York City's most beloved day-trip destinations.

The vast green lawns and slopes, winding paths and views make the seven-minute ferry trip from Manhattan feel like a voyage to another world -- not that you can forget you're a mere half-mile from Lower Manhattan, with soaring views of 1 World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty just across the water. Some of the best views come as you round the bend near Castle Williams, a circular red stone fort that served as a barracks and prison in the decades after its construction in 1811.

The island hosts concerts, children's activities, art shows and whimsical outdoor installations like a giant blue phone receiver in a tree. Events include a unicycle festival, on Aug. 30-31.

It takes less than an hour to stroll around the island, but allow more time for enjoying parks and green spaces like Hammock Grove, with play areas and 50 hammocks. You'll also want to poke your head in historic buildings like the Admiral's House and visit shops like Better Than Jam, which sells locally handmade crafts and products. Check out Liggett Terrace food court, where vendors offer everything from Belgian waffles, ice cream and beer, to oysters, sesame noodles and Cuban sandwiches. You can bring bikes on the ferry or rent bikes, tandem bikes and surreys on the island.

The island is open daily through Sept. 28 (10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, until 7 p.m. on weekends and Labor Day). Ferries run daily from Lower Manhattan's Battery Maritime Building, 10 South St., near the Staten Island Ferry terminal. Ferries also run weekends from Brooklyn Bridge Park's Pier 6. Round-trip fare is $2, with select free ferries on weekend mornings. See govisland.com/html/home/home.shtml.

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