A Divorce for Governors Island
Governors Island, that enticing 172-acre piece of real estate just off Manhattan’s shore, has been tantalizing urban planners for decades. Since its long-ago days as a military base and even longer-ago days as a fort guarding New York’s harbor, the island has been considered the perfect site for a university or a casino complex or a medical facility or, best of all, a grand public park.
But those plans never seem to go very far, mainly because the island is controlled by both the city and the state. Nobody has been able to decide exactly how to develop the island and, importantly, how to sustain it financially. It is time, therefore, to give the island one boss: its closest neighbor, New York City.
After years of negotiations, Washington transferred Governors Island to the city and state in 2003. Transferring custody from the state to the city should be a far less troubling transaction. And it should be an easy sell in Albany, which has shown too little interest in being the kind of serious steward the island needs.
Last year, the state failed to contribute any new operating funds to the island’s tiny budget. And Gov. David Paterson’s budget this year shows more zeroes. The city traditionally releases its money only after the state commits its share. No state funds and no city funds means no future. Indeed, the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation, which runs the site, has threatened to close it off to the 200,000 or so visitors who are expected to make the trip this year.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he has the money to care for the island and also finish Brooklyn Bridge Park, another city-state project. He can afford the divorce, he says, because the city has about $300 million available to use for great parks on the city waterfront. It’s time for Albany to hand over the keys.
New York Times