Public Review of Governor’s Island Rezoning to Begin

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Adi Talwar

The 6.5 acre Western Development Zone on Governor's Island seen here with the white structures has an unparalleled view of New York City's skyline and statue of Liberty.

A Governors Island rezoning proposal will begin its public-review process this month after the city released the final phase of its plan to rezone the southern part of the island for private mixed-use development in the hopes of attracting academic institutions as well as life sciences, media and technology companies.

The Trust for Governors Island’s 2010 Park and Public Space Master Plan set aside the two southern development zones for future mixed-use development. In 2010, the city took control of the federal land along with the nonprofit Trust, which handles its day to day maintenance and operations.

“Governors Island is a rare and precious resource for the entire city and region that inspires creativity and innovation,” said Michael Samuelian, president of the Trust for Governors Island, in a press release. “This next chapter presents an unparalleled opportunity to activate the Island with new educational and research facilities in a destination unlike anywhere else. We look forward to continuing our transformation with a collaborative planning process that will help ensure that this extraordinary open space is accessible and sustainable not just today, but for generations to come.”

The entire island is zoned R3-2, which is a general residential district that allows a variety of housing types, including low-rise attached houses, small multi­family apartment houses, and detached and semi-detached one- and two-family residences. It is the lowest density zoning district in which multiple dwellings are permitted.

According to the draft scope, in order to develop the southern part of the island as proposed, changes will have to be made to the zoning map and text amendments for expansion of the Special Governors Island District to the South Island and changing the zoning from residential R3-2 to a mid-density commercial district. Zoning in the historical district, at the northern end of the island, would remain unchanged.

Because of federal deed restrictions—full-time residents are not allowed to live on Governors Island—no full-time residential units are proposed in the rezoning plan. But it does allow for part time residents on commercial properties such as hotels or dormitories, according to the draft scope.

With the new development and amenities coming in the near future, the draft scope also includes details for additional transportation for 2022; there are plans underway for ferry service to be expanded to seven days per week between Governors Island and Manhattan and between Governors Island and Pier 6 in Brooklyn.

For over two centuries, Governors Island was used by the British and American military and then for another 30 years as a base for the U.S. Coast Guard. Governors Island is home to Fort Jay and Castle Williams — designated a National Monument. The Trust for Governors Island manages and operates 150 acres and the National Park Service oversees the remaining 22 acres, according to the draft scope.

According to the city, Governors Island’s vistorship has increased by 65 percent since 2014 and it has expanded from a four-month season to a six-month season; night visiting hours on Friday and Saturdays were introduced this year. With over 50 historic buildings on the northern section of Governors Island, the island currently is home to two year-round tenants: the New York Harbor School and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Art Center. Several new commercial tenants are also preparing to move into buildings on the Island year-round, including Spaceworks and the Billion Oyster Project, said the Mayor’s Office in a press release.

Governors Island is located in flood zone A but was redeveloped as a resilient island by architecture firm West 8 Urban Design & Landscape Architecture by Design Director Adriaan Geuze, whose work included planting 860 new trees and 41,000 new shrubs as well as installing new lawns and permeable paving to reduce erosion.

“This rezoning represents the next step in marrying the Island’s rich history with its future role as a global hub for convening, the arts, tech, and education,” said Alicia Glen, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development, in a press release.

The environmental review and public scoping meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, September 26, 2018, at 6:00 P.M. at the Governors Island Ferry Waiting Room, Battery Maritime Building, 10 South Street. The comment period for the Draft Scope of Work will remain open until 5:00 P.M. Tuesday, October 9, 2018.

2 thoughts on “Public Review of Governor’s Island Rezoning to Begin

  1. Wasn’t the gift of Governors island from the federal government to the City specifically conditional on a the promise that the city would use the land for active and passive recreation only?

  2. Is there an email address to which comments can be sent, or is it snail mail only? NYC Gov site just says “Written comments on the Draft Scope of Work may be submitted to the Mayor’s Office of Environmental Coordination until 5:00 P.M. Tuesday, October 9, 2018.”.

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