Whose Governors Island Is It?

governors_island_013_08_08.jpg Brooklyn is closer to Governors Island than any other land mass—a mere 400 yards—but, alas, it belongs to Manhattan. The New York Times revived the grumbling about what some perceive as this unfairness in an article this weekend. “Although the island is legally part of Manhattan, its sewage and water pipes pass through Brooklyn. As a result, some irate Brooklynites regard their borough as the service entrance, Manhattan as the front door and Governors Island as the parlor where the influential entertain their guests.” Some think the answer is to allow the two boroughs to share claim to the place, the way Manhattan and Queens each have a stake in Roosevelt Island. Is that the solution?
Governors Island 013. Photo by joevare.

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  • Seems like rabble rousing for those with not enough to worry about. What’s missing from the article is how many people are actually visiting the island, or would want to. The article suggests the residents of Red Hook are disadvantaged because they have to go through Manhattan to get there. Begs the question of if there were a ferry, who who would be going to Red Hook to take it?

  • I must agree. Brooklyn was annexed (consolidated) into New York City over 100 years ago. Seems a little bizarre to worry about what borough Governor’s Island is attached to. Similar situation exists with Rikers Island. Although it has a made-up Queens mailing address (East Elmhurst) and accessed from Queens, it is legally part of Bronx County (which itself was part of Westchester county until a hundred years ago).

  • You guys are missing the boat so to speak. If there was access to Gov’s Island from Brooklyn, it would make the island’s recreational potential much more practicl to use. Who wants to go into Manhattan to double back? It’s stupid.
    I don’t care which boro “owns” the island, but I think there should be a convenient link to Brooklyn, maybe connected to the greenway bike path. I actually think there should be a bike/pedestrian bridge, if boat traffic is an issue make it a retractable bridge.
    If the City is serious about redeveloping the Island (and who knows what the heck the city is serious about except more taxes) it has to be made accessible from Brooklyn as well as Manhattan. But the fate of the island is up in the air. Unless they can make billions in redevelopment dollars, the Bloomberg administration couldn’t care less.

  • Um…like, who really cares?

  • If someone can explain to me just one reason why it matters whether the island is part of Brooklyn or Manhattan, then I promise to care. The island could belong to Canada for all I care. As long as the figure out how to make it accesible to Brooklyn without having to go to Manhattan first.

  • the article briefly mentions (with zero follow up) the city’s plan to build a gondola connection between pier 6 at atlantic ave. and governors’ island. as of december 2007, this plan was still viable. (see http://www.nypost.com/seven/12202007/news/regionalnews/high_on_govs_i__331057.htm) so bashing bloomberg on this issue seems at best premature.

  • I’m liking the gondola connection. perhaps a solar-powered ferry as well.
    http://pmyeditors.blogspot.com/2007/05/green-ferries-for-blue-highways.html

  • BrooklynButler

    Memo to Brooklyn: you have bigger problems.

  • Seriously, BKButler. Bigger fish to fry. Let’s start with the impending hole in the ground that would be AY.

  • It is a bit frustrating that you can almost touch Gov. Island from Brooklyn, yet you have to got to Manhattan to get there. I don’t care who owns the island, but they can at least have a ferry from Brooklyn make a stop at Gov. Island to make it more accessible. If you build it, they will come.

  • Boroughs are meaningless political subdivisions of NYC . It is city of New York that is owner.

  • The gondola thing makes little sense to me. Who wants to be stuck in a gondola in the middle of the bay? (think Roosevelt island tram) However if Calatrava could design a super cool pedestrian bridge than lifts or slides or folds up, that would be cool. Unfortunately we just do not have the clout in DC, or Albany, or city hall to make anything good like this happen. The pols think of Brooklyn as “welfare land” where the rabble don’t deserve and would not respect a new park. Look at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Any bets on whether that will ever actually happen?

  • If someone wanted to build some decent apartments out there for folks with middle-income (the dreaded “donut hole” of more than $30k and less than $150k), then I’d fully support a ferry or even a little bridge.

    Other than that… there’s a lot of things that require going to Manhattan first. I’m thinking of traveling (relatively quickly) from one part of Brooklyn to another part of Brooklyn. Flatbush to Williamsburg for example. So, I’m not that surprised or particularly bothered. My once a year trip to Governor’s Island is really plenty.

  • WonTon

    I think we should invade.

  • tyburg 6 – As I understand it, there are some pretty strict deed restrictions that were imposed on the island by the feds when they “gave” it back to NY a couple of years ago. One if those restrictions was that there be no permanent residential development there. I think that if a university wanted to build dorms there, that would be, but not real housing.

    Also, I thought the Calatrava gondola idea was to connect the island to Manhattan, not to Brooklyn…

    And Sam – I’ll take that bet about Brooklyn Bridge Park. Bid documents for the first part of the part are actually out right now to contractors. That means that they are actually hiring people to build it. I think it’s time to curb the skepticism on this one.

  • Actually, the Calatrava gondola was to distract the press from the fact that the development corporation was re-issuing the request for proposals because there weren’t any viable submissions the first go round.

    What is CB6 proposing? A bridge? Or do they just want to have jurisdiction?

  • It’s easier for most people in Brooklyn to go via Manhattan than to get to a ferry in Red Hook. Progressive thinking would have put the Ikea on GI with free ferries to both boroughs, thus leaving Red Hook free for the incipient resurgence of the ship repair industry.

  • MMHPH- weren’t there some proposals for casinos on GI put forward by the City? Or was that just one of many pie in the sky ideas out there?

  • Perhaps some up and coming entrepreneur could start an airlift service for Ikea customers whose packages are too big to carry. Parachute them out over various target areas in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island to be added later. Drop ship would acquire a whole new meaning.

  • bxgirl – that sounds vaguely familiar, but I have to confess that I don’t recall the details. I doubt a casino would be allowed by the deed restrictions, but I’d have to double check to be sure. As I remember it, all that would be allowed would be “educational uses”, leisure/recreation uses and hotel/convention use. I’d have to do some research to be sure – I’ll admit that it’s been a while since I thought about Gov Isle and I’ve forgotten the specifics.

  • East New York

    “Let’s start with the impending hole in the ground that would be AY.”

    Or the current hole in the ground that been there since at least the 1960s.

  • I think that the Brooklyn Bridge Park is an amalgomation of corruption at the state, city, and personal levels. Everyone involved should be indicted for criminal misuse of public funds.
    It is the classic tale of how things cannot get done in Brooklyn.
    The next chapter for that stretch of waterfront will be as a stagiing area for the reconstruction of the BQE cantilever. You mark my words. that project should take fifteen or so years.

  • The above post discusses sharing Governor’s island using the Roosevelt Island model. My question is what is that model?

    In short Roosevelt Island politically votes for Manhattan elected officials, is part of Manhattan School District #2, and Manhattan Community Board 8.

    For emergency services Roosevelt Island is served by a Queens based NYPD police precinct (the 114) and by Queens based FDNY houses. The latter provision of services dictated by the fact that Roosevelt Island’s only physical connection to the mainland is the Roosevelt Island Bridge connecting the island to 36th Avenue, Long Island City. I am unsure which borough serviced then Welfare Island before the Bridge’s construction. Presumably either borough could have sent units to the middle of the Queensboro Bridge and taken the elevators down to the island.

    Other than this division of services and political sub-divisions what sharing agreement / model is there? At present the day to day operations of the island are not even run by City agencies but by the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, a state created authority whose predecessor the Roosevelt Island development Corporation and the UDC, were created to rebuild the island and manage it under a lease with New York City that had allowed the island to go to waste and disrepair.

    So how that model would work with out a bridge from Governor’s Island to Brooklyn I am not sure. But I would support such a bridge.

    http://RooseveltIsland360.blogspot.com

  • I always thought the model for Roosevelt Island was 1970′s Moscow. Certainly the folks that run the Operating Corporation must have been schooled in the Kremlin.

  • bxgrl: I think, at one point, Trump wanted to develop the island as a casino. I think that was before the Federal gov’t actually sold the island back to the city. I don’t think it was ever very serious.

  • Sam – that’s pretty harsh. I would say that the delays in Brooklyn Bridge Park have more to do with incompetence than corruption. That being said, I don’t think the current group running that project suffers from that problem, and I will take you up on your bet. That park is going to start construction in a matter of months and will start to open new patches of park in late 2009. You mark my words.

  • P Heights
    I like your writing style, you seem smart and lucid,
    however you are rather naive about the BBP.
    Of course there is the usual high degree of incompetence at work, but to truly understand the depth and breadth of this boondoggle you need to do some old-fashioned muckracking. I have, and I could write a book, and maybe I will.
    I think I may be a bit older than you, and I have been hearing that the “plans are out to bid” or some form of that- for about ten years. I have been hearing that “work is really just about set to begin” for about eighteen years.
    It’s all baloney. The latest bit of shenanigans involves the Purcahse Building site, which the DOT never conveyed to the BBPDC, and guess what? they never will! Right now, winding its slow way through Albany and DC, is the appropriations bill to rebuild the BQE, this will entail building a temporary highway next to furman Street while the cantilever is closed for reconstruction, work that will take years. folks have been on the take on this project for decades. Charges have not been brought for political reasons -incumbents did not want to “look bad”. The whole thing is perhaps one of the most corrupt public works projects since the Tweed Courthouse.

  • 11233 and Bxgrl… Trump did have a proposal floating around that showed Governors Island as a Casino / Amusement Park, complete with Ferris Wheel, etc.

    Access from Brooklyn via ferry would only be logical, but that will never happen. The way NYC has mishandled Governors Island is an insult to the legacy of Moynihan. He brokered this deal 15 years ago, for a buck. Nothing has been done since? What a joke.

    Sam… Re: BBP. Have been hearing the same blank promises for nearly 20 years as well.
    If it gets done by the time my 3 y.o. kid is in high school I’ll be impressed.

    Let’s not even mention Penn Station. Another slight to Moynihan’s efforts.

    Things don’t get done here in NYC. We’re stuck with an ancient infrastructure designed by Moses. They’ve been rebuilding the BQE for the last 35 years. JFK is a third-world obstacle course. Congestion pricing will never pass in Albany. Etc.

    Cities as disparate as Hong Kong and Stockholm seem to be able to make great progress with each new decade, whether it’s a fantastic new airport or bike lanes that work. Here in NY we get the same decades-old stranglehold via Silver and recently-exited Bruno in Albany.

    Anyone for secession?

  • Sam – thanks for the kind words. It always make me smile that whenever you say something positive on this site you are automatically tagged as either a broker or naive. Yes, I suspect you are probably a little older than me. I totally understand the frustration that long-timers must feel about a project that was first announced about 20 years ago and still has not come to fruition. But you have to understand that the people who are pushing this thing forward right now are not the same folks who’ve been screwing this thing up for 20 years. Look at what’s happened in the short time that Regina Myer has been at the helm of this thing. Actual demolition has begun, the City has committed an additional $75 million to the project, and the pier 1 pocket park has brought people out to the pier for the first time ever. You may not agree with her vision of what’s best for the city, but you have to concede that regina gets things done and she’s committed to this project because she thinks it’s the right thing to do. Let’s pick this conversation up in 18 months when stoner runs an article about the ribbon cutting on this bad boy. I’ll try not to say ” I told you so”

  • Oh and one more thing. It’s interesting that you don’t believe in BBP but you have full faith that the BQE project will happen. I’ve been hearing about the BQE project for about 4 years now, and the most recent update I’ve heard is that it’s still at least 3 years away from beginning. I’m waaay more skeptical that the BQE reconstruction will get done any time soon. My kids will be playing in Brooklyn Bridge park for years before they are old enough to get their driver’s licenses and sit in the traffic that will be generated by the eventual BQE reconstruction.

  • thanks, all- I forgot Trump was involved. Not what I would have hoped for Governors Island but it’s a moot point. I just hope they do something everyone can enjoy. Sam, you sound like an insider on all this, not just an interested resident, but hopefully MMHPH will have the last word on BBP and we’ll all be lifting a glass in celebration.