Governors Island approves budget without NY funds

March 13, 2009 at 1:58 am Leave a comment

Governors Island is running out of money in a few weeks, but the state and city still haven’t agreed on who will pay for it.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday offered to have the city take over the state’s share of funding _ and ownership _ of the tiny waterfront park off the tip of lower Manhattan. Gov. David Paterson cut the island’s expenses out of his executive budget this year, but a state official said Paterson “is committed” to it.

The board that oversees the 172-acre former military base in New York Harbor approved a $12 million operating budget Thursday for a budget year that starts April 1.

“Very shortly afterward, we have to figure out where the money comes from,” said Avi Schick, chairman of the Governors Island Preservation & Education Corp.

The federal government sold the island to the city and state for $1 in 2003, with the city and state sharing the operating costs. The island has grown into a popular summer playground for locals and tourists with free bike rides on carless paths, Little League games and artists’ studios.

Bloomberg said the city would take money it had planned to spend on the city-state redevelopment of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan and put it into Governors Island and Brooklyn Bridge Park.

“It’s a good deal for the state,” the mayor said. “If not, they can take them over or close them down.”

Bloomberg and city officials have criticized the state before for the pace of city-state redevelopment, including scuttled expansion plans for the Javits center; and has sought to shut down the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., a state subsidiary that approved ground zero rebuilding plans.

Officials said changing ownership of the island would involve transferring its governing corporation to a city-controlled agency, rather than the state’s economic development corporation.

Schick said “the governor is committed to Governors Island” and said the corporation would figure out how to fund its budget in the next few weeks.

“The state is working with the city to resolve this funding issue,” Paterson spokesman Erin Duggan said.

Several board members on Thursday questioned whether the island was a state priority and said one government could run it more efficiently.

“We need predictability because we need to be able to maintain these buildings,” board member Sherida Paulsen said. “The potential threat of closure of the island raises the specter of mothballing.”

Officials said they hoped for 200,000 visitors this summer to the 172-acre island for concerts, traffic-free bike paths, sports fields and breathtaking views of the skyline and Statue of Liberty.

A maritime school is under construction; an ambitious, $500 million master plan was unveiled over a year ago to build salt marshes, hills, waterfront promenades and marine galleries on the island.

Sold by original Dutch settlers to the British in 1708, the island later became home for over 200 years to soldiers, Confederate prisoners of war and the U.S. Coast Guard. The National Park Service opened up two historic Army forts to the public four years ago.


On the Net:

Governors Island: What matters at this stage,” MacIntyre wrote in After Virtue, “is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us.”

Associated Press


Entry filed under: Dive In, Go Coastal, Manhattan, Public Waterfront. Tags: , , , , .

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