Going places: Gatsby-esque Jazz Age Lawn Party is joyful escape on Governors Island; NYC’s island retreat gets glamping

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Going places: Gatsby-esque Jazz Age Lawn Party is joyful escape on Governors Island; NYC’s island retreat gets glamping
The Dreamland Follies and Michael Arenella and His Dreamland Orchestra at the 13th annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island. Many of the dancers are Rockettes © 2018 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, David Leiberman & Laini Miranda
Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Flappers and Dapper Dans packed the ferry to Governors Island for the 13th annual Jazz Age Lawn Party, June 16 and 17. Take heart if you missed the June weekend festival: there is another opportunity to transport yourself back to the Gatsby Era, on August 25 & 26.

The Jazz Age Lawn Party is a chance to push back the clock to a Gatsby-esque Brigadoon of sorts. It is the best of New York and brings out the best of New Yorkers. The music and atmosphere brings out pure joy -– it is one perennial smile.

For an entire afternoon you are transported – quite literally by ferry from the tip of Manhattan and Brooklyn – to the 1920s era of hot jazz. People of all ages, dressed to the nine’s as flappers and gents, bearing wicker picnic baskets (some with tables, tablecloths and candelabra), stream onto the island, with its forts and structures from the Civil War and World War II. It is but a stone’s throw from Manhattan and Brooklyn, and yet a world and an era away.

Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra create this literal dream, with his meticulously recreated music of the 1920s.

There is impeccable faithful reproduction – even the cocktails are Speakeasy-worthy and if you didn’t have appropriate attire, you could rent or buy vintage at one of the stalls, take a tintype photo or a photo sitting on a blue moon with a vintage camera.

Over the years, the regulars have returned, now with babies, now with toddlers, now with their little boys in their caps and suspenders, little girls with hair bows, dresses and patent leather shoes who join in the dancing.

Interlude music is provided on vintage vinyl recordings over antique gramophones.

The only thing that bursts the illusion, to jostle your memory of what year it is, are the ubiquitous cell phones.

Conductor, composer, musician and crooner Michael Arenella presents a personally transcribed, one-of-a-kind songbook for your listening and dancing pleasure by his Dreamland Orchestra, playing the Hot Jazz of the 1920s.

The entertainment abounds on two stages (and two dancefloors): The Dreamland Follies evoke Ziegfeld-esque grand dance routines; Roddy Caravella and the Canarsie Wobblers is a fun-loving dance troupe that conjures the rebellious and exuberant spirit of Roaring ‘20s; Queen Esther pays tribute to jazz royalty of yore and Peter Mintun takes the moniker of “world’s greatest piano man”; and the Gelber & Manning Band, feuding vaudevillian lovebirds quarrel, coo and make beautiful music together. Also Drew Nugent and the Midnight Society have come from Philadelphia, presents wry, spry, and certifiably Hot Jazz; The Great Dubini (Gregory Dubin), the resident magician in The McKittrick Follies at The Mandeerlay Bar, presents his unique brand of classic magic.

There are fun activities as well which you can join: the event typically starts with a dance lesson (the Peabody was being taught on Sunday), followed in the afternoon by a Dance Contest; a Bathing Beauties and Beaus Promenade, wearing vintage swimming outfits of the age (for entry email: [email protected]), and a Children’s parade.

The afternoon starts off with dance lessons in the hottest dance steps of the time, like the Peabody or Charleston. You can immortalize the day in your own Vintage Portraits-You Ought To Be In Pictures, perched on a Paper Moons or in tintypes using the same techniques and chemicals (a mixture of gunpowder and ether) as were used more than a century ago; the ultimate family-friendly event also features Kidland carnival games and prizes for junior Gents and Flapperettes. There’s also a 1920s MotorCar Exhibition, where you can get up close and personal with flivvers and Tin Lizzies, and Antique Gramophones that reanimate original recordings from the 1920s.

And what would a Prohibition-era, speakeasy event be without booze? Julie Reiner presents her Clover club Collection cocktails and VieVité, Côtes de Provence Rosé is the official wine sponsor of the Jazz Age Lawn Party. (Take note: you can’t bring in your own alcoholic beverages to Governor’s Island.)

The event typically sells out and tickets are only available for purchase in advance. For tickets and information visit, http://jazzagelawnparty.com/. Purchase tickets at http://jazzagelawnparty.ticketfly.com/.
Break away from the music and dancing to explore Governors Island, by bike or foot.

Governors Island: New York City’s Island Retreat So Near Yet So Far Away, Introduces Glamping

Governors Island, a 712-acre island in the heart of New York Harbor, but 800 yards off Lower Manhattan and even closer to Brooklyn, is a sensational getaway destination, in its own right – historic sites like Fort Jay and Castle Williams, bicycle paths, playgrounds, art venues, and marvelous festive “happenings.” You never have had to go so near to be transported so far.

Be one of the first guests to stay overnight on NYC’s historic Governors Island with Collective Retreats. With unique accommodations including luxury tents (glamping) and designer modular containers, guests enjoy a full-service hotel-style retreat with unparalleled waterfront views of New York City and the Statue of Liberty (collectiveretreats.com).

You can rent bicycles at Citibikes and at Blazing Saddles (which offers a free hour-long ride weekdays before noon) and delightful surreys.

Governors Island has a fabulous history that goes back to the Native Americans and colonial days of the Dutch and the British in New York. It has had a military purpose going back to the Revolutionary War. Between 1806 and 1809, the U.S. Army reconstructed Fort Jay and built Castle Williams on a rocky outcropping facing the harbor. During the War of 1812, artillery and infantry troops were concentrated on Governors Island.

The island continued to serve an important military function until the 1960s. During the American Civil War, it was used for recruitment and as a prison for captured Confederate soldiers (on one visit, I came upon Civil War reenactors practicing drills, quite a mind-bender from having just come from the 1920s Jazz Age Lawn Party). Throughout World War I and II, the island served as an important supply base for Army ground and air forces (my father was stationed at Fort Jay during the war.)

Over the years, Governors Island has served as the backdrop for a number of historic events. In 1986, the island was the setting for the relighting of the newly refurbished Statue of Liberty by President Ronald Reagan. In 1988, President Reagan hosted a U.S.-U.S.S.R. summit with Mikhail Gorbachev on Governors Island, and in 1993, the United Nations sponsored talks on the island to help restore democratic rule in Haiti.

In April 2010, Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Paterson reached an agreement on the future of Governors Island. The City of New York is now responsible for Governors Island and created the Trust for Governors Island, the organization charged with the operations, planning and redevelopment of the Island.

The Island has become known as New York City’s “Playground for the Arts,” hosting cultural events, food festivals, concerts, performances throughout the season.

The Trust for Governors Island, also offers a wide variety of programming on public access days. Visit them at www.govisland.com for more information.

Access to the island has been greatly improved.

This summer, you can stay late on Fridays, when is open until 10 pm (May 25-September 14); you can have cocktails and dinner at the outdoor cafes and bars; outdoor films and other events are scheduled.

Governors Island is open daily May 1-October 31, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, and weekends from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Fridays from May 25-September 14 until 10 p.m.. You can get ferry schedules here (ferries during Late Fridays will run from the Battery Maritime in Lower Manhattan, located at 10 South Street), https://govisland.com/visit-the-island/ferry.

New Boardwalk Café Opens at Jones Beach State Park After 14-Year Absence

The $20 million Jones Beach Boardwalk Café is finally open for business after a 14-year absence, bringing back a popular dining option and renewed vitality to Central Mall at the heart of Jones Beach State Park. The revitalization of Long Island’s most-visited state park (and one of the best white-sand beaches in the world) is part of the Governor Andrew Cuomo’s NY Parks 2020 multi-year commitment of $900 million in private and public funding to modernize New York’s state parks.

“The grand opening of the Boardwalk Café highlights New York’s progress in restoring the historic vitality of Jones Beach State Park,” Governor Cuomo said. “I encourage everyone to visit Jones Beach this summer and experience for themselves the transformation that has taken place at one of Long Island’s true natural wonders.”

The new 7,700-square-foot café, featuring an open and airy Market Hall dining concept and distinctive tensile roof, will bring back food and beverage to the Central Mall that has been absent since 2004 (for a long-time it was bogged down in a fight with Donald Trump who wanted to ignore environmental restrictions), when the previous building was demolished due to structural failure. The café will be operated by Centerplate, a concessionaire offering hospitality services at the park.
There will also be a Taste NY Grab and Go component to the Café with more than 20 New York-produced items.

The Boardwalk Café anchors newly installed activities including the refurbished East Games Area and the new splash pad adjacent to the Central Mall and the adventure course to be constructed this summer and offers outdoor shaded seating options, with commanding views of the ocean, beach and boardwalk. It was designed to withstand severe coastal storms and flooding with a reinforced design built on piles that elevates the main floor 20 feet above sea level, while honoring the park’s heritage with brick, sandstone and limestone to match those materials utilized in the historic 1920/30s buildings in the park era, a large and historic photo of the Park in the interior, and restored symmetry of the Central Mall.

Another wonderful improvement to Jones Beach is that the dedicated bike path that starts at Cedar Creek Park and goes alongside the Wantagh Parkway has been extended 3.5 miles along Ocean Parkway, passing by the Bay and Jones Beach Theater. What is more, you can now bike on the boardwalk during the summer (respecting walkers).

Since 2011, State Parks has committed $65 million through 2020 in projects to restore Jones Beach State Park’s historic grandeur, attract new visitors and create new recreational facilities as part of a multi-year revitalization plan. Projects completed include the rehabilitation of the West Bathhouse and Field 6 Bathhouse, restoration of the historic park mosaics, new playgrounds and West Games Area and Zach’s Bay, new gateway signage and boardwalk upgrades.

“Investing in the Jones Beach State Park is a common sense way to help grow the local economy and revitalize our entire community,” Senator John Brooks said. “I commend the Governor for his efforts and I look forward to visiting the Central Mall and enjoying the renovated Boardwalk Cafe. I encourage Long Islanders, and all New Yorkers, to come to Jones Beach State Park this summer and enjoy all of the great activities, restaurants, and natural beauty this community has to offer.”

“The Boardwalk Café is an important part of our area’s history that honors our community’s past with its beautiful Art-deco designs, while also adapting to our present and future needs,” Town of Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen said. “We are grateful to Governor Cuomo for making this treasured building more resilient to withstand future storms and open in time for the busy July 4th weekend.”

“Jones Beach is the crown jewel of the south shore of Long Island. No matter the season, locals and tourists come to Jones Beach for the boardwalk, ocean views, concerts, and sporting events,” Assemblywoman Christine Pellegrino said. “The restoration of the Boardwalk Cafe is a welcomed addition and I am grateful to the governor for the investment in this important project.”

“The new Boardwalk Café is a wonderful step towards growing the vision for what Nassau County should look like in the future,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said.
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