Back in January '09, I blogged about New York City’s ambitious plan
to transform 40 down-and-out acres of Governors Island
filled with abandoned Coast Guard buildings into an eco-park complete with a botanical research center built inside of a rubber bubble, artificial hills constructed from reclaimed building materials, and a floating seafood restaurant housed in an inflated sphere and anchored by a manmade oyster reef.
This week, it was announced that NYC has finalized negotiations with the state and will attempt to move ahead with the $220 million dollar project
. And from what I gather, it will be a more scaled-back, less sci-fi undertaking sans the rubber bubbles and floating inflated spheres. The manmade mountains, however, are still in tact.
The Master Plan
of the Governors Island park — conceived by, appropriately, Dutch firm West 8
in partnership with Rogers Marvel Architects
, Diller, Scofidio + Renfro
, and Urban Design+
— includes several unique areas
such as wetlands,
the densely wooded “Hammock Grove
,” an 11-acre public lawn
, a 2.2 mile waterfront promenade
, and the aforementioned series of lush, green artificial hills
built largely from the rubble left behind by the demolished Coast Guard barracks and warehouses and parking lots. Sustainability
is a core design principal.
The movement within the design — the disappearance and reappearance of carefully framed urban views; the shift from a verticality that intentionally echoes the downtown Manhattan skyline to the flatness of the water’s surface — is its single most impressive feature. But such variations also speak to the ways the city itself is changing. The exaggerated steepness of the hills, for example, is not only a clear nod to their artificiality — a “green” counterpoint to Manhattan’s towers — but also a practical response to rising sea levels caused by global warming.
Given that Governors Island is 172 acres and the purposed park will be 40 acres what will happen to the rest of the land? As those familiar with the island know, it’s not all
abandoned concrete barracks. On the north end of the island, there’s the stunning, 92-acre National Landmark Historic District
that currently operates under the auspices of the National Park Service
. This section of the island is open to the public June through October and is my favorite, hands down, place in all of New York (check out this post
when I visited the island for a Dutch design event). Outside of the Historic District, how the remaining acres will be developed has yet to be determined
Says the NYT
of the potential developments:
We might end up with anything from university buildings (New York Univesity has suggested that it could build dormitories and classroom space on the island) to luxury hotels and a conference center. And there are those who will argue, with some justification, that the plan for Governors Island is part of a larger, continuing process of gentrification in New York City that raises its own questions about whom these projects ultimately serve.
Again, the project isn't completely in the clear as the Master Plan
is in the public review stage and funds for the ambitious second phase of the project, the one with the $220 million dollar price tag, have yet to be raised ($41.5 million has been set aside for the first phase of the project that entails numerous improvements to the Historic District like a new ferry pavilion
). So don't hold your breath waiting for a Hammock Grove, New Yorkers. But I do recommend checking out these truly amazing renderings of what could be in store for Governors Island sometime down the line.