PRESS RELEASE: M.A.G.I.C. – No to the Governors Island Upzoning – May 11th City Council

Friday, May 7, 2021

Roger Manning, Metro Area Governors Island Coalition (M.A.G.I.C.)
governorsislandcoalition[AT] | (email to request phone #)

The current upzoning proposal for Governors Island must be withdrawn.

Individuals, community groups, candidates rally in support of preserving the incredibly unique green open space quality of Governors Island.

New York, NY – On Thursday, May 6th Metro Area Governors Island Coalition (M.A.G.I.C.) held a press conference in Battery Park with Governors Island and New York Harbor as the backdrop.

The City Council Land Use Committee will vote on the current rezoning proposal for the southern portion of Governors Island on Tues May 11th.

The proposal must be withdrawn. Bringing in high-density high-rise development is not the best use of this unique “country place in the city” which belongs to and is visited by people from all NYC zip codes. New Yorkers have a serious need for the welcoming, open, expansive, parkland quality (even in areas with buildings) that Governors Island provides and really isn’t available elsewhere.

The main rationale for this intrusive project – making Governors Island financially self-sufficient and accessible year round — isn’t supported. The Trust’s own speculative projections state that financial self-sufficiency wouldn’t be achieved until 2050. Meanwhile it’ll cost taxpayers billions. Community Board 1 (CB1) says the Trust’s financial analysis is insufficient. A City Planning commissioner said approval would be akin to the city giving the Trust a blank check for an unspecified project

In the review of the rezoning proposal, any discussion regarding a climate research center is irrelevant. This is a proposal to upzone the south island, period. There is nothing legally requiring that a climate center be the result. In fact, GI is already productive as a climate hub, thanks to the work of Earth Matter, GrowNYC, Billion Oyster Project, the Harbor School and others.

Many solid historic buildings lie unused on the island. Any new building should be kept to minimum and not exceed the four-story height of buildings in the historic district.

The current rezoning application was sprung on the public just late last September and is being pushed through process during a pandemic in an election year. Public hearings on land use being held virtually due to COVID-19 are insufficient and should be suspended as has been the case in several instances this year in the city.

Speakers included:

• Lindsey Boylan – Manhattan Borough President Candidate
• Jeffrey Kroessler – City Club of New York
• Christopher Marte – City Council Candidate, District 1
• Kim Watkins – Manhattan Borough President Candidate
• Fannie Ip – East River Park Action
• Tiffany Winbush – City Council Candidate, District 1
• Paul Graziano – Urban Planning, Land Use, Zoning Consultant (sent a statement)
• Benjamin Shepard – Voice of Gowanus
• Jenny Low, City Council Candidate, District 1
• NY State Assemblymember Deborah Glick (sent a statement)
• Allie Ryan – M.A.G.I.C. co-founder, City Council Candidate District 2
• Roger Manning – M.A.G.I.C. co-founder
Attached images:

1) magic_preser_5-6-21_01.jpg – Screenshot From video of the 5-6-21 M.A.G.I.C. press conference. Lindsey Boylan speaking. Also visible : Tiffany Winbush , Jenny Low, Jeffrey Kroessler, Roger Manning, Chris Marte. By Wade Winckler
2) magic_gi_poster_900w.jpg – M.A.G.I.C. “Trees Not Towers” (TNT) poster.

Statements from the speakers:

Roger Manning – M.A.G.I.C. co-founder
Roger Manning highlighted the above points and emphasized that the actual issue at hand is, “What is Governors Island going to be? Will it be an irreplaceable one-of-a-kind green urban refuge that essentially functions as a park – even in areas with buildings with – and provides for the arts and environmental educational projects? Or another high-rise, high-density commercial urban district with boxed in value-added landscaping?” The de Blasio administration wants to build 4 times higher than the 70 foot lookout hill created in the south island parkland. The rezoning applicants are not providing plans for legally required FDNY infrastructure in areas with buildings over 70 feet. Let’s not let Governors Island 2021 = Penn Station 1963.

Allie Ryan – M.A.G.I.C. co-founder, City Council Candidate District 2
“Thank you to everyone coming out today to draw attention that we are trying to save another park. Our fight began years ago trying to save Community Gardens. A couple years ago we began to fight to save East River Park. And this year we are trying to save Governors Island. It is sorta crazy that parkland is becoming real estate opportunities in this town and it should not be. I like to add that M.A.G.I.C. is a member of the At-Risk Green Spaces Coalition and I know that several other representatives of Green Spaces are here and will speak, too.”

Paul Graziano – Urban Planning, Land Use, Zoning Consultant
(Supplied statement read by writer and journalist Eileen Myles)
“There is no question that the rezoning application put forth by the Governor’s Island Trust is frankly an overdevelopment scheme in search of a plan. In the more than two decades that I have been involved in planning issues in New York City, I have never encountered such a brazen attempt by any entity – public or private – to essentially steal this amount of public land and hand it over to the equivalent of a phantom organization. The Trust refuses to show its financials, has no development partner and continues to push for the privatization of one of the crown jewels of public land in New York City, or anywhere in the United States for that matter. There are no planning principles being discussed here, only the utter degradation of a cherished and irreplaceable public asset by the de Blasio administration and the Mayor’s handpicked members who control the Trust. The City Council has an obligation to protect the public good against what can only be described as a landgrab against itself and either demand that this application be withdrawn or, barring that, just vote NO. Our city – and Governor’s Island – deserves better.”

Lindsey Boylan – Manhattan Borough President Candidate
“Our green spaces are the lifeblood of this city. They are what enlivens it, they keep our kids healthy — yet so many of them are under attack,” said Lindsey Boylan, a career urban planner and candidate for Manhattan Borough President. “The tactic of our failed leadership is to fail to foster and nurture these spaces. The city is starving them and then saying ‘this can’t work’ and making it a fait accompli to turn them over to developers. If we really want to promote climate science and resiliency, then we will do everything we can to protect that amazing place. I stand with M.A.G.I.C. in asking the New York City Council to reject the proposed upzoning of Governors Island.”

Jeffrey Kroessler – City Club of New York
“The plan to develop Governors Island with massive commercial towers is but the latest bad idea from an administration that has been a fount of bad ideas. They seem to view public open space not as a public benefit, but as an opportunity for private interests to profit. What the Trust for Governors Island describes as new public spaces is in reality nothing more than the lawns and walkways between the massive new buildings. To speak of a need for additional square footage for an as yet merely aspirational climate research center when the historic buildings on the island remain vacant and unused mocks the very idea of ‘green.’ It is wonderful that so many candidates for office, newcomers to the political arena, have expressed their opposition to this misbegotten plan, and it is a shame that so few current officeholders have expressed an opinion. The upzoning of Governors Island must be stopped, and the Trust must redirect it efforts to craft a plan that the public will recognize as reflecting the public interest.”

Christopher Marte – City Council Candidate, District 1
“Governor’s Island is a treasured park for Lower Manhattan, and the rest of the city. The proposed rezoning is justified as a way to make the park profitable. But the value of the parks comes from all that they offer to our community, not the money they generate.”

Kim Watkins – Manhattan Borough President Candidate
(See Kim’s City Council hearing testimony here: )

Fannie Ip – East River Park Action
“East River Park Action supports M.A.G.I.C’s fight against the rezoning of Governors Island. There is an urgency – our green spaces are being threatened. Our City is trying to take away our parks and our gardens, whether it’s for a $1.45 billion plan for flood control that can be achieved for half that without destroying the entire East River Park, or taking away public green space to build a 250ft tower and calling it ironically, a “research center for climate solutions.’ Our green spaces are at risk. We must stand together to fight the City’s land grab benefitting private developers and protect and preserve our parks and gardens for future generations to come.”

Tiffany Winbush – City Council Candidate, District 1
“I’m adding my voice urging the City Council Land Use Committee to vote no on the current rezoning proposal for Governors Island. As a 15-year+ Financial District resident, Governors Island is my backyard. Like so many New Yorkers, my family of four, including an 8 and 4 year-old, stayed put in NYC during the height of COVID-19. The experience reconfirmed what we already knew. Accessible, open green-space is invaluable. When Governors Island opened up last July, we were the first to reserve our ferry tickets. We reveled in the open-space of Governors Island and my daughter mastered riding her bicycle for the first time in a space that was free of car traffic. When I stepped foot onto the ferry, I immediately begin to feel the M.A.G.I.C. of the island. I’ll also point out that access to open-space is an equity issue. Last season, as well as this season, a Governors Island ferry was made available in Red Hook, allowing a community that is typically underserved by open space, access to it. I urge the Governors Island Trust to withdraw its current proposal and reassess the vacant properties currently going unused on the island to strategize solutions on how to use those to generate revenue.”

Benjamin Shepard – Voice of Gowanus
“I’m here today to oppose the Governor’s Island rezoning on behalf of the grassroots community coalition Voice of Gowanus. We stand in solidarity with MAGIC and all groups and people seeking to keep Governor’s Island a true haven in the harbor. It is not just another development site – and it should remain an egalitarian place open to all.

Gov’s island is a magic place, a secret place, where pirates and marching bands converge, friends play baseball, kids loaf in the grass. It’s a space where we imagine. New York has always been a place for arts and artists. But there is less room with rezonings such as this.

We live in a delicate urban ecology. Developer giveaways and one size fits all solutions only endanger this ecology. Under the currently proposed Governors Island rezoning, a unique green urban refuge in NYC will essentially become a backyard for a massive corporate-style facility– fundamentally altering the experience of the island.

In reality, the Governors Island (GI) climate hub proposed by Mayor de Blasio and the Trust for Governors Island (TGI) is part of a fast track push for numerous NYC rezonings (including Flushing, SoHo/NoHo, Gowanus) to satisfy the mayor’s economic recovery plan legacy. It’s a Trojan horse for high-rise1 profit-driven overdevelopment.

Voice of Gowanus is particularly concerned about all the proposed development on Governor’s Island because it stands to increase stresses on the same sewershed that we share across the Buttermilk Channel in Brooklyn. If sewage load pressures on the Red Hook Sewage Treatment Plant increase as a result of the Governor’s Island rezone, combined sewer overflows (or CSOs) will increase in Gowanus. That’s a problem. We already have major CSO issues where over 350 million gallons of CSO run into the Gowanus each year. That could undo the EPA’s Gowanus superfund cleanup remedy, something we cannot afford as a community.

Mayor DeBlasio talks a great deal about the Paris climate accord. If we are ever to live up to this, then the developer giveaways have to stop.


Jenny Low – City Council Candidate, District 1
Governor’s Island is a unique and beloved public space in our city. The Island’s long and fascinating history and the important role it plays for residents today make it especially important that any new development on Governor’s Island is done right and that community voices are at the center of this process. I strongly oppose the Mayor’s current proposal.
It’s critical that any new development on Governor’s Island preserves its unique landscapes and prioritizes the protection of open space. Many New Yorkers see Governor’s Island as a much-needed escape from the city. The current proposal is out of sync with the existing infrastructure on the Island, including its low-scale structures and open parkland.
Governor’s Island should continue functioning as a public park. It’s clear that this project can’t move forward until these voices are heard and have a real seat at the table in this process.
Throughout this pandemic, we’ve seen just how critical parks and open spaces are to our wellbeing in this city and I’m committed to fighting for their preservation. The proposed development on Governor’s Island does not do enough to protect our open spaces, preserve the historic nature of the Island, address environmental concerns, and ensure our families can enjoy it for years to come. Until community voices are heard and these concerns are addressed, I strongly oppose this plan.

NY State Assemblymember Deborah Glick
(Supplied statement read by writer and journalist Eileen Myles)
“I am troubled that the City Planning Commission is considering an application from the Trust for Governors Island (the Trust) and Mayor de Blasio to rezone 45% of the portion of Governors Island known as South Island and permit 4.5 million gross square feet of development, with buildings reaching 300 feet in height. This egregious proposal would rob City residents of light, air, and open space at a time when they are more essential than ever to maintaining public health.
The rezoning would dramatically reshape the landscape of what has become a treasured respite for so many New Yorkers, and would pit the commercial needs of large scale tenants with those of park-goers. I would hope the need for access open space is not compromised by this proposal when outdoor recreation is valued, now, more than ever.”

Trees Not Towers on Governors Island