Demolition Opens New York's Governor's Island for Public Park

NEW YORK, New York, October 13, 2008 (ENS) - New York City officials Friday began opening up the southern end of Governor's Island in New York Harbor with the demolition of 10 military buildings that were not built to city building code standards.

The demolition of the three-story buildings, built in 1988 as housing for the Coast Guard, will provide access to half of the island never before open to the public, creating more than eight acres of new open space that will be available to New Yorkers next summer. The demolition will open up the island's entire 2.2 mile waterfront promenade for walking and biking.

"From the South Bronx Greenway to Fresh Kills Park in Staten Island, we're working to revitalize the city's waterfront in all five boroughs - and open it up to the public," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg at the demolition event. "But perhaps no place offers the unique setting or more spectacular views than Governors Island."

"Next year, we'll open up the southern end of the island and create eight new acres of open space where New Yorkers will be able to picnic and play in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty," the mayor said.

"Meanwhile, design is underway for the future park that will transform Governors Island into one of the great destinations of the world," he said.

Three new open spaces encompassing 90 acres are in the design phase - a two mile Great Promenade along the water's edge; a new 40 acre park located on the southern half of the island; and an improved park design within the northern Historic District.

The Great Promenade and 40 acre park will provide places to relax, play sports and explore, with a unique view of the Statue of Liberty. In the National Historic District, visitors can continue to enjoy acres of green space that include buildings and homes dating from 1810.

The park master plan will be unveiled prior to the 2009 season on Governors Island.

"We encourage everyone to give their thoughts and ideas to the design team for Governors Island's parks and public spaces," said Rob Pirani, executive director of the Governors Island Alliance. "Over the next several months, there will be many ways in which the public can get involved and tell the planners what they want to see on the island."

People can find out more and post their comments and ideas at the Governors Island blog:

For the past four months, Governors Island has been the site of one of Olafur Eliasson's New York City Waterfalls, one of the reasons the island attracted more visitors than ever before.

By Sunday evening, more than 125,000 people visited the Island this year, twice the number of visitors as last year and more than five times the number in 2006.

Governors Island, is only 800 yards from Lower Manhattan, and even closer to Brooklyn. For almost two centuries, Governors Island was a military base where the U.S. Army and Coast Guard stationed personnel.

Due to changing needs in operations, the Coast Guard closed and mothballed its facilities on the island in 1996. In 2003, the federal government sold most of the island to the people of New York for one dollar.

Today, the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation, GIPEC, oversees 150 acres of the Island. The National Park Service manages the balance, the 22-acre Governors Island National Monument which includes two 1812-era forts.

"This year has been the most successful yet on Governors Island," said GIPEC Chair Avi Schick. "We are proud that such important milestones have been achieved - from welcoming more visitors than ever to clearing non-historic buildings to help open the southern portion of the island to the public."

The demolition is the latest in a series of milestones for Governors Island. Construction began this summer on the building that will house the island's first tenant, the New York Harbor School, scheduled to open in 2010. Two additional requests for proposals have been issued for artist studio space and a temporary dining and entertainment venue. These tenants will be in place by the spring of 2009.

"The developments on Governors Island are a great example of New York City and New York State working together to important economic development projects," said Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert Lieber. "Governors Island, together with Brooklyn Bridge Park, the East River Waterfront and Hudson River Park, is part of a new and expanding Harbor District area and an important part of our efforts to open our city's waterfront and provide recreational opportunities for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers."

Governors Island is open every Friday from 10 am to 5 pm. On Saturdays and Sundays, the island is open from 10 am to 7 pm. Ferries leave from the Battery Maritime Building, on the corner of South and Whitehall Streets, in Lower Manhattan. For current ferry schedules and downloadable maps, visit

{Photo: Governor's Island lies off the southern tip of Manhattan and closer to Brooklyn, in the foreground, than to New Jersey, in the background. (Photo by Ed Costello)}

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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