Tuesday, February 07, 2006

In the News: Sleeping Beauty - Governors Island

Just a few hundred yards off the southern tip of Manhattan lies a mostly uninhabited island with grand plans for both development and conservation. Governors Island, which recently became property of the City of New York after centuries of Federal ownership, is a controversial piece of waterfront real-estate located in heart of an urban metropolis. Several different agencies, organizations, and individuals have a myriad of ideas of what should become of this undeveloped island. While some are calling for hotels, theaters, and high-rise residential condominiums, others are calling for conservation and increased public access states this recent NY Times article. JB

GOVERNORS ISLAND, 172 acres of American history lying just off the southern tip of Manhattan, is terra incognita to most New Yorkers. Commuters, glimpsing it from the Staten Island Ferry, see only an array of abandoned modern buildings and two unpromising landmarks: a white ventilation tower belonging to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, and Castle Williams, a grim 19th-century fortification, dark red and pierced by black windows.

The island had belonged to the Army since the 1800's. The Coast Guard took over in 1965 but left in 1997, and it's been moldering ever since. Only within the past few months, after years of neglect and delay, has this stark backdrop to a cross-harbor commute emerged as a major concern for the city.

Deputy Mayor Daniel L. Doctoroff has labeled redevelopment of the island a top priority for Mayor Bloomberg's second term. "Everyone recognizes that to achieve the island's potential," Mr. Doctoroff said, "we have to spend wisely now."

Later this month the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation, known as Gipec, the state and city entity responsible for oversight of the island, will choose consultants to help it supervise planning for the island. And on Feb. 15, Gipec will solicit formal proposals from interested developers.

Some financing is finally on the horizon. On Jan. 12, Gov. George Pataki announced that his 2006-07 budget request would include $30 million, and the mayor has asked for $30 million more in his current budget to pay for urgent repairs to the island's most frail structures. These improvements, Mayor Bloomberg indicated in his Jan. 26 State of the City speech, will pave the way for a grand design, soon to materialize. "We will select a specific plan for the future of Governors Island," he said, "that makes the most of its spectacular location, beauty and history."


Overview of Proposals

Google Map of Governors Island

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