An uncertain future for New York’s Governors Island

February 16, 2009 at 2:33 pm Leave a comment

More than 125,000 people took the ferry last year to Governors Island for summer concerts, free bike rides on carless paths, and breathtaking views of New York Harbor.

But Governors Island’s days as a free summer playground may be numbered.

Gov. David Paterson’s new executive budget includes no funding for the island, an ex-military base off the tip of Manhattan. And New York City, which shares the expense of operating the island and usually matches state funding, is forecasting multibillion-dollar deficits, higher taxes and possible layoffs in its budget.

Without funding restored, “we would have to shut the island down,” said Leslie Koch, president of the Governors Island Preservation & Education Corp.

The island is accessible only by ferry. Five times as many visitors used the island last year as in 2003, the first year it was opened to the public. Little Leaguers use the island’s baseball diamond; a maritime school and artists’ studios are under construction; and an ambitious, $500 million design would build hilly parkland, salt marshes, waterfront promenades and marine galleries.

Sold by Dutch settlers to the British in 1708, the 172-acre island later became an American military base — home for 202 years to soldiers, Confederate prisoners of war and the U.S. Coast Guard. The city and state eventually bought the island from the federal government for $1 and turned it into a waterfront park.

Buildings being demolished on the southern half of the island are to be replaced by over seven miles of traffic-free bike paths by the summer, Koch said.The redevelopment would also add more sports fields and 90 acres of parkland.

Koch said there were no plans to charge visitors for the ferry rides or most services, except perhaps weekend bicycle rentals. “This is really a place that’s being built for New Yorkers,” she said.

Associated Press

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Entry filed under: Go Coastal, Manhattan, Public Waterfront.

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