Metro Area Governors Island Coalition (M.A.G.I.C.)
NOTE: While this is the pre May 27, 2021 zoning approval overview, the information still applies.
(Press excerpts, footnotes, actions below. )
Under the recently approved Governors Island rezoning, an incredibly unique green urban refuge in NYC will essentially become a backyard for a massive corporate-style facility being marketed as a climate change research center – fundamentally altering the psychological 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 (“destination shopping and offer special and department stores, theaters and other commercial and office uses” 2).
The project’s law firm has ties to the powerful REBNY real estate lobby. The TGI chair citing “the hopeful case of Robert Moses“ 3 and saying, “This is a nice piece of real estate” 4 should also be red flags.
1) The main rationale for this intrusive project – financial self-sufficiency for GI – is not justified. This upzoning won’t pay for the Islands needs – at least not until 2050 according to the Trust for Governors Island’s (TGI) own speculative projections. It would be infinitely more economical to by-pass developers and subsidize Governors Island directly. 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
2) The rezoning “encompassing the entirety of Governors Island” 6 subjects the vast parkland to future encroachment from the currently designated areas. (“… pursues land use changes that will permanently allow new development.” 7) The proposed blanket C4-1 zoning potentially subjects all areas in the south island to eventual development.
3) Any discussion regarding a climate research center here is irrelevant. This is a proposal to upzone the south island, period. There’s nothing legally requiring a climate center tenant and an educational institution lease would only be for 30 years. In fact Governors Island is already productive as a climate hub, thanks to the work of Earth Matter, GrowNYC, Billion Oyster Project, the Harbor School, NYC Audubon, Waterfront Alliance and others.
4) “Open space” is not just pedestrian access, as TGI is selling it, but involves sky and the feeling of openness. The “increased open space” that TGI is presenting is “woven open space similar to Battery Park City.” 8 It’s boxed in by 10 – 30 story buildings and non-public areas. New building on Governors Island should be kept to minimum and not exceed the four story height of buildings in the historic district or the 35-foot height limit in the current zoning.
The priority for GI needs to be preserving our shared country place in the city for future generations – and not only for humans. GI is a haven for nature that yields significant ecosystem service benefits to NYC, and is already productive as a climate hub, thanks to the work of Earth Matter and GrowNYC (which have been sited in the area shown as empty land for several years), along with others.
There is a serious need of New Yorkers at this moment for solace and the last thing that many can afford right now is a vacation. 99% of New York City zip codes use Governors Island which offers what other major NYC public spaces can’t – a retreat, an adventure, a change of scenery, and escape from the glass and steel towers. This fight is about the need for tranquility, for solace, and sanctuary, and for the preservation of natural habitat and beauty.
TAKE ACTION: HERE
FOOTNOTES from summary:
1 p.92: https://gov-island-site.s3.amazonaws.com/pages/CB1-Presentation-11_9_20_FINAL_2-compressed.pdf
2 p.12: https://drive.google.com/file/d/107Y2sHq1pA67XiEy1dFiYBcDwv6LxQ4U/view
5 p.25: https://gov-island-site.s3.amazonaws.com/pages/CB1-Presentation-11_9_20_FINAL_2-compressed.pdf
6 p.12: https://drive.google.com/file/d/107Y2sHq1pA67XiEy1dFiYBcDwv6LxQ4U/view
8 p.57: https://gov-island-site.s3.amazonaws.com/pages/CB1-Presentation-11_9_20_FINAL_2-compressed.pdf
Dec 2 , 2020
- ‘Glen quickly got the Trust’s mission changed to be about “bold visions” and “full potential” and then produced a real estate-driven plan that if implemented, would damage the island’s quality as a public park. […] How would that work? First, the Trust creates a “red herring” to serve as bait and distract us: a non-profit “Center for Climate Solutions” whose function is to justify a massive upzoning on 33 acres of the island . . .’
Nov 12, 2020
- This plan is not about Governors Island – “Beyond the financial benefit, Deputy Mayor Vicki Been told THE CITY that the plan for Governors Island is ‘a key part’ of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s economic recovery plan for the city.”
- “…as it pursues land use changes that will permanently allow new development.”
- “Kevin C. Fitzpatrick, an author of a book on Governors Island history and a frequent tour guide there, fears massive changes would ruin what many New Yorkers love about the space: its open, natural landscape. […] He says the goal to build a facility to fight climate change is ‘laudable,’ but says the Trust should focus on making ‘a workable plan to use the buildings and the property as it is.'”
- The creation of new parks aren’t guaranteed – walkways and promenades around the development sites “‘as funding allows’ from the Trust, Newman said.”
Oct 19, 2020
- “During a hearing on Monday, some commissioners voiced concern about the proposed scale of the development, as well as the fact that details on the project wouldn’t be hammered out until after the rezoning.”
Oct 8, 2020
- “De Blasio has every reason to want to complete these rezonings before the end of his term, given that the city will have not only a new mayor but a largely different City Council come 2022. Chin is term-limited, meaning the Soho rezoning could become a major campaign issue for those vying for her seat.”
Sept. 17, 2020
- “This time there’s not even a specific tenant in mind, just a desire to attract one.”
- “[architectural renderings] rosy advertisements for hypothetical construction.”
- “In recent years, Governors Island has become one of the city’s quiet marvels. [… ]the island feels a world apart, a mini 19th century New England village with Adirondack chairs and food carts, smack in the middle of New York Harbor.”
- “Of course many universities are also facing a cash crunch because of the pandemic. Not many may be looking to expand at this moment.”
- “Alicia Glen, a former deputy mayor, who now chairs the Governors Island Trust, cites the hopeful case of Robert Moses.”
- “Architecturally speaking, everything will come down to the details — and the as-yet-undetermined tenant(s).”
September 17, 2020
- The proposal is not really about benefitting Governors Island: “The center is projected to create 8,000 direct new jobs and $1 billion in economic impact for New York City.” […] “getting New Yorkers back to work and restarting our economy.”
- The numerous public officials quoted are mostly commenting on climate planing/visions for NYC – not necessary the proposed g.i. climate center. And no one specifically discusses rezoning.
Sept. 28, 2018
- “Alicia Glen, deputy mayor for housing and economic development, is leading the charge for the development of Governors Island. [… ] ‘This is a nice piece of real estate,’ she said”
- “Artists, waterfront advocates and general lovers of the island had heard the news and were already worried, planning to attend the first of several public meetings to ensure the city doesn’t ruin one of its last undeveloped tracts. But Ms. Glen shook it off.”
- “When she looks at the hospital, Ms. Glen doesn’t see dead people; she envisions a boutique hotel. In place of the new luxury glamping site dotted with white tents may rise a bigger, more permanent hotel and a ‘really cool’ convention center. […]She could envision its skyline — a single 30-story building next to a bunch of smaller buildings of 10 stories or so”
- “More than 120 people jammed into the ferry terminal in Lower Manhattan for the first public meeting on the development. […] There were artists, but also parents, park rangers, politicians, green-space activists, waterfront advocates, and just regular citizens, all with one thing in common: a fierce attachment to the island. […] Loudly applauding one another, these relative strangers begged for transparency, for a say in what happens and for a moratorium on skyscrapers.”
- “’We must act,’ said Mr. Fitzpatrick. ‘We must defend Governors Island. Otherwise the Trust won’t be heroes. They will go down as villains in the same stripe as Robert Moses.'”
- “’I’m not objecting to the fact that they’re rezoning the island,’ Mr. Buchanan said. ‘It’s the direction the island has taken, and by extension all the waterfront parks in the city are going — in the direction of privatization. The park was created with the promise of open access. Making money through real estate should be secondary to public access.’”
- “Murray Fisher, the co-founder of the oyster project and the Harbor School, […] ‘Let’s not just throw another Battery Park City out there,’ he said”
October 02, 2020
- “New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s call for a climate center on Governors Island has prompted reactions from promising to skeptical.”
- “The proposal for the historic island off Manhattan’s southern tip is preliminary, with many unanswered questions.”
- “‘It is obviously on government property so you don’t have a tax issue with a public-private partnership,’ Rubin said.” [Alan Rubin, a principal at Blank Rome LLP]
- “Clearly, de Blasio wants something but it’s late in the day to make this your physical legacy.”[Nicole Gelinas, a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research]
- “‘To me it would make more sense to put it on Staten Island,’ Gelinas said, citing infrastructure components in place. ‘It makes sense to build on what you have.’ She cited the island’s longstanding ferry service to Manhattan, MTA-operated bus and railway systems, and bridges connecting Brooklyn and New Jersey.”
- “Rubin, while acknowledging the viability of Staten Island, still considers Governors Island the better option. It’s important, he said, to sidestep the kind of visceral neighborhood opposition that forced Fortune 500 behemoth Amazon to withdraw its plans for a co-national headquarters in Long Island City, Queens. ‘Governors Island is sort of neutral, like Switzerland,’ he said.”
- “It’s important to note that the Trust hasn’t landed an anchor university, research group, or company yet”