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Dear City Councilmembers, Mayor, Borough Presidents, and Public Advocate:

I urge you to oppose the Trust For Governors Island (TGI) zoning proposal: it effectively privatizes 33 public acres and is just too big and too extreme. It is unnecessary and does more harm than good. Better alternatives exist that could generate revenue while doing less harm to the National Historic District and to the function of the island as a calm respite from the city.

  1. The main rationale for this intrusive project – financial self-sufficiency for Governors Island – is not justified. The Trust’s own speculative projections (based on pre-covid conditions) state that financial self-sufficiency wouldn’t be achieved until 2050. Meanwhile it’ll cost taxpayers billions. Also, as Manhattan Community Board 1 points out in their 12/22/20 resolution, the Trust has not provided enough information to evaluate the project. As a City Planning Commissioner said at the March 1st public review, this project is akin to the City giving the Trust a blank check for an unspecified project
  2. As the City is in the middle of the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) public review process for Governors Island has been in contravention of the provisions of the City Charter and City Rules as found in the January 15, 2021 temporary restraining order granted to the Voice of Gowanus coalition.
  3. The rezoning “encompassing the entirety of Governors Island” subjects the vast parkland to future encroachment from the currently designated development areas.  (CB1 is requesting that the south island “Open space Subarea” be designated at public parkland.)
  4. In the review of the rezoning plan, any discussion regarding a climate research center is irrelevant, misleading, and should be termed off-topic. This is a proposal to upzone the south island, period. There is nothing legally requiring that a climate center be the result. Mainly it serves as a potential “anchor tenant” in order to attract developers and sell the upzoning to the public. 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.
  5. Any future South Island development should preserve GI’s one-of-a-kind feel of open space – defined not simply as pedestrian access as TGI is selling it, but involving sky (think air rights) and non-private areas. The “increased open space” that TGI is presenting is “woven open space similar to Battery Park City.” It’s boxed in by 10 – 30 story buildings and non-public areas. (None of the buildings currently on GI exceed 5 stories.)
  6. We support more public amenities such as for the arts, athletic activities, playgrounds, waterfront access, urban farming, environmental projects, “wild” less-formal spaces, and a bandshell. We also support the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School community’s requests for a pool, a gymnatorium and expansion into the neighboring former hospital building.

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 Governor’s 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.

I agree with the following, excerpted from the Manhattan Community Board 1 12/22/20 Resolution.

  • The city’s current proposed rezoning in its current form needs to be rejected in order to: “ensure the protection and preservation of the natural, cultural and historic qualities of Governors Island, guarantee public access to this magnificent island, promote the quality of public education, and enhance the ability of the public to enjoy Governors Island and the surrounding waterways, thereby increasing the quality of life in the surrounding community, the City, the State and the United States.”
  • Currently, Governors Island has a village-type, modest urban density. In terms of mass and height, the proposed development is substantially larger than the existing development on the Island. A majority of public comments indicate that it is the existing density and scale that gives Governors Island its identity as an island refuge in its highly urbanized context within the city
  • [The current TGI proposal] is nearly three times larger than what was considered as part of the 2013 FSGEIS […]the public’s understanding for the development program was based on those earlier models and the drastic increase in scale of development is unacceptable
  • The Trust must prioritize phasing development to allow for leasing the existing millions of square feet already existing on the Island prior to the construction of new buildings
  • CB1 asks that the Trust identify and consider what the State and Federal government each provide currently to the Island and how this might be increased under the new administration to provide additional support to the Island
  • The Trust asserts that the proposed level of development is required in order to make the Island financially self-sustaining. However, there is no mandate in the Deed that notes the Trust must become financially self-sustaining
  • Financial and other modeling done in connection with this proposed project were conducted using assumptions on pre-pandemic conditions. […]the community does not have confidence that this proposal will develop as expected. Many have expressed fear over an undesirable result, such as more privatization on Island
  • In July 1997, […] CB1 wished that Governors Island be kept as a park land with active, open recreational space. Further, that “one thing that Community Board 1 does not want to see happen is for Governors Island to be converted into some kind of private or semi private area that would prohibit residents and workers and tourists from coming onto the Island. That would include residential communities or campuses.”

Metro Area Governors Island Coalition (M.A.G.I.C.)